Sweden’s parliament has approved a law making controversial changes to the nation’s cherished welfare state. Part of the programme that brought centre-right Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to power three months ago, the reforms include a cut in unemployment benefits. Passed by a small majority in parliament, the measures were defended by Employment Minister Sven Otto Littorin. “We have been transparent on this subject from the beginning and we won the elections,” he said. “Our task now is to achieve what the electorate voted for.”
The changes are key to the new government’s efforts to encourage job-seeking by making work more profitable than unemployment. But not everyone is convinced by the reforms which also include a rise in workers’ contributions to unemployment insurance. The opposition campaign has been spearheaded by Sweden’s trades union federation, LO. It argues the cut in unemployment benefits will force the jobless to accept badly-paid work.