The Swedish Agency for Public Management

The public sector in brief 2014

In this report, we describe the development of the Swedish public sector within four different areas: public finances, employment, the number of authorities and state full-time positions, and citizens' perceptions of quality in the public sector. The focus is on reporting developments during the past year, primarily within the state administration.

In brief, we have examined the following:

Public finances

  • Both public income and expenditure rose as a proportion of GNP in 2013 compared with 2012. Both figures were just over 50 percent of GNP. However, the proportions have fallen during the last ten years.
  • State consumption expenditure rose significantly more than that of the municipal sector between 2012 and 2013, at almost 4 percent compared with just over 1 percent.
  • The public sector's gross debt as a proportion of GNP rose from just over 38 percent to just under 42 percent between 2012 and 2013. However, it has fallen significantly compared with 2003.

Public sector employees

  • In 2012, around 1,275,000 people were employed in the Swedish public sector. This corresponds to 28 per cent of the total labour market. The public sector's proportion of the labour market has decreased during the last ten years.
  • The gender balance among state employees is even. Within the municipalities and the county councils, eight out of ten employees are female.
  • Defence is the area of state operations that has experienced the greatest percentage growth between 2012 and 2013.
  • Overall, skills provision within the state works well. However, it is affected by factors such as too few career paths, difficulties retaining young people and competition for workforce.

Number of authorities and state full-time positions

  • The number of authorities under the Government is not decreasing at the same rate as in the early and mid-2000s. In January 2014 there were 370 authorities – two fewer compared with 2013.
  • The number of state full-time positions has seen a relatively large increase during the last two years, from 205,000 in 2012 to 213,000 in 2014. The number of full-time positions for 2014 is the highest level in the 2000s.
  • Many authorities are small, with over 40 percent having fewer than 50 full-time positions. However, these small authorities account for a very low proportion of the total number of full-time positions.

Citizens' perceptions of the public sector

  • In a 2013 survey, citizens were most positive about the work of the police and the Swedish Tax Agency. The Swedish Public Employment Service was the least appreciated of the authorities included in the survey.
  • There are larger differences in citizens' opinions of different state authorities compared with their opinions of municipal services.
  • The proportion of those who are satisfied with the healthcare dropped between 2012 and 2013, from 59 percent to 48 percent.
  • In general, neither economic, social nor party political background was of major significance to citizens' opinions. However, there are minor differences that can be linked to factors such as gender, age and party sympathies.