Income in Sweden and Ireland

I have collected some statistics about income and income distribution in Ireland and Sweden, and in three other countries, for comparison.

Mean income (2019)

Country Mean disposable income in euro, today's conversion rate Mean disposable income in USD, adjusted for PPP
Denmark €38,640 $36,391
Germany €29,011 $36,264
Ireland €34,959 $34,464
Sweden €28,847 $34,670
United Kingdom €29,016 $31,639

From OECD Stat

So, the mean income is considerable higher in Ireland than in Sweden, but things are more expensive there too, so when we adjust for purchasing power, the Swedish mean is actually higher than the Irish. At least it was in 2019. Part of this can probably be explained by the weak Swedish krona right now; the experts (in Sweden) don't seem to have a good explanation to why the krona is so weak — the publish finances are good, the Swedish economy is doing fine, etc.

High and low incomes

Minimum wage

It is not easy to find numbers that correspond to minimum wage for Sweden. There has been talk in the EU about introducing a minimum wage for everybody, and in those discussions one has talked about 60 % of the median income for minimum wage. In Sweden that would mean €20,361 (for 2023). Most people in Sweden with a wage that low are under 20 years old, work part-time, or has add-ons that raise the wage above 60 % of the median. If you exclude this group, 3 per mille of Swedish employees have a wage below this level. So, in practice 'minimum wage' in Sweden is higher than that. (For 2018, Medlingsinstitutet)

You can also look at the lowest salaries in collective agreements. For people working in restaurants the lowest salary is 1659812/11,5=€17320 per year. People in telemarketing, on 'introduction pay', are paid 1310912/11,5=$13679 per year, but they are only working 75 %. Once they are off the introduction pay they make at least 17479*12/11,5=€18239 per year. (A lot of these levels seem to be tied to age, so people will automatically be given a raise when they turn 20 or 24 or something. That sets a natural limit to how long you can stay on the lowest pay levels, but I guess it also creates situations where employers let people go before they grow 'too' old.)

Top salaries at the University of Gothenburg

The highest salary I find at the University of Gothenburg is about €145,700 per year. (A professor at the medical faculty.) For comparison, the Swedish prime minister currently has a salary of €199 300 per year.

Income distribution

Another measure of interest is the ratio between the income of the top earners and that of the bottom earners.

S80/S20 is the ratio between the mean income of the top quintile (the richest 20 %) and the mean income of the bottom quintile (the poorest 20 %). From OECD Data on Income inequality

Sweden has higher inequality than Ireland according to this measure, but perhaps the most interesting observation is that the difference between the countries is so small.

Poverty rate

Another measure is poverty rate.

Poverty rate is the share of people living in poverty, defined as less than 50 % of the median household income.Also from OECD Data on Income inequality

Concluding remarks

Before I put together these statistics, I thought that Sweden had a higher median income than Ireland, and that the income distribution was more unequal in Ireland than in Sweden. So the results are a bit surprising. But for the last 10-20 years Sweden has taken a steep right-turn politically. There has been a lot of emphasis on making it more profitable to have a job than living on welfare support. So if you combine the inequality with the high 'minimum wage', a possible conclusion is that there is a big difference in Sweden between people with jobs and people without. Differences between people who have jobs are (compared to other countries) smaller.

Income in Sweden and Ireland

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