The construction of the first power plants and the opening of the railways allowed the use of local resources, first wood, of iron then, the latter sector in which the mining activity already practiced in the Middle Ages was resumed and strengthened; in the steel industry, however, the introduction of very advanced technologies played a decisive role in the sign of what was then – and still remains – one of the aspects that most characterize the Swedish economy. Alongside industry, the main sector and effective basis of the country’s wealth, agriculture was not forgotten, an area in which Sweden once again placed itself under the banner of rationality. Major reclamation and drainage works made it possible to extend the crops; with increasingly modern methods, it was possible to acclimate new food plants. In addition, the foragers were extended to increase livestock activity, which in turn allowed for the strengthening of further industries. A very efficient economic policy, with very original connotations, is the indispensable element to understand the extraordinary results achieved in Sweden. It has set itself two fundamental objectives: the guarantee of work for all, thanks to substantial subsidies and reconversion of industries in difficulty, and that of well-being, which is based on the redistribution of individual incomes to the entire community. However, this program has not affected the structure of the economy, which remains substantially capitalist and liberal; industry in particular is in the absolute majority in the hands of private individuals and has a high degree of concentration; having to focus above all on exports, large companies are better able to position themselves on the international market and by now for some of them one can rightly speak of multinationals. However, the weight of consumer cooperatives is also relevant, organized in a powerful federation that is mainly interested in the sale of food products and which operates in a wide range of related industries. Public enterprises, on the other hand, have a priority role in the field of collective services (communications and telecommunications, transport, etc.).
The State remains the greatest balancer between the opposing demands of the employers and the world of work, to continue to ensure the country that “social peace” which has been a commitment sanctioned since 1938, the year of the Saltsjöbaden convention, by the very powerful associations of entrepreneurs (SAF, Svenska Arbetsgivareföreningen, founded in 1902) and workers (LO, Landsorganisationen i Sverige, founded in 1898). Sweden also suffered the heavy repercussions of the world crisis of the mid-1970s, as well as the international recessionary trends of the 1980s. Above all, the crisis called into question, for the first time, the constitutive elements of the economic system, in particular that Swedish socialism that has dominated the national scene for decades and has been an obligatory point of reference for economists all over the world. Although slightly blurred in its dazzling image, Sweden even in that difficult period managed to maintain one of the highest levels of development in the world.
According to Businesscarriers, the per capita income in 1989 crossed the threshold of 21,700 dollars, a very large figure, even more so if we consider the rigidity of the climate and the harshness of the soil, the scarcity of energy minerals and the scarce variety of natural resources, limited to timber and iron deposits, as well as hydroelectric potential. The crisis, which worsened in the 1980s and became particularly relevant at the beginning of the following decade, also produced heavy negative effects in the world of work. In contact with the slowdown in production, the country realized that the ambitious objectives outlined by the state were not easy to achieve and maintain. Through austerity policies, a reduction in the provision of social services of considerable importance was experienced, without completely dissolving that image of “welfare state” for which Sweden became rightly known after World War II. Between the end of the Eighties and the beginning of the Nineties, the need for corporate restructuring was determined in advance by the need to support the increased conditions of competitiveness required by the creation of the Single Market within the CEE. The new political guidelines introduced numerous deregulation measures in the country, starting a process of privatization, reducing the tax burden and limiting the spending capacity of local authorities, which are mainly responsible for the strong growth in public employment. In 1993, per capita GDP exceeded $ 25,000, reaching 26,750 in 1999 and leaping to 52,790 in 2008. Sweden, not without internal resistance and overcoming a certain propensity for isolation, applied for membership in July 1991 and from 1 January 1995 it officially became part of the European Union. In the early years of the 21st century, the country recorded high levels of economic growth: in particular, in 2003-04 the growth rate of national wealth stood at around 2%, a value that remains above the EU average despite the slight decline due to the stalemate that hit the New Economy. Even inflation (3.3% in 2008) and unemployment (6.2% in the same year), stopping at decidedly contained values, highlight the state of health of an efficient and highly competitive country on the international scene. Moreover, in the ranking of the IMD (International Institute for Management Development) of Lausanne, Sweden went from 9th place in 2003 to 8th in 2004. Sweden’s modern development model focuses heavily on strengthening high-quality sectors.