Regional development

OECD Territorial Reviews: Sweden


Summary | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Video
National territorial reviews  | How to obtain this publication | What the papers say 
 Related conferences | Further information

OECD Territorial Reviews: Sweden 2010 | OECD Free preview | Powered by Keepeek Digital Asset Management Solution

ISBN Number:

Pages: 200

Publication date: 
March 2010


The Swedish combination of growth and equity objectives reveals a strong regional scope. The three largest regions of the country accounted for 51% of the national population, 57% of the national output, and 70% of the national output growth during 1995 2005.

At the same time, regional disparities in GDP per capita remain the lowest in the OECD due to Sweden’s comprehensive welfare system and ambitious fiscal equalisation system. However, pressure from demographic ageing and the current global economic crisis calls for more cost effective delivery of public services and stronger efforts to fully exploit regional growth potential.

Sweden has recently renewed focus on promoting development opportunities in all regions and has introduced a gradual regionalisation process with a strong bottom-up approach. Yet challenges remain, particularly concerning knowledge diffusion and urban-rural linkages. Further efforts to achieve critical mass and improve co ordination can help better address local needs.


Reforms to capture complementarities between growth and equity at the regional level will, in the longer term, reinforce Sweden’s capacity to remain among the OECD’s best performers. Sweden’s inclusive policy making culture and the high level of trust among public and private actors and citizens are major assets to make reforms happen.

This Review explores the potential for enhanced innovation and entrepreneurship in both urban and rural areas and provides recommendations to strengthen Sweden’s regional development strategies through improved governance mechanisms, both regionally and across levels of government.





Read the executive summary online (PDF 2.37mb)


Chapter 1


Sweden is a small open economy exporting a large share of its domestic production. The cold climate and particular geography has created an uneven distribution of the population with pockets of concentration but also low levels of inter-regional inequalities. Chapter 1 is comprised of three main sections.

The first section identifies Sweden’s main macroeconomic strengths and challenges. The second section illustrates the high levels of economic and demographic concentration present in Sweden, their impact on national output and the low levels of inter-regional inequalities. This section also evaluates the asymmetric impact of the global financial crisis on Swedish regions.

The third section assesses the main factors of growth at the regional level and identifies opportunities for growth in the areas of promoting innovation, enlarging labour markets, improving inter-regional linkages and examining future sources of growth in rural regions in renewable energies. 



Chapter 2


Reinforcing Sweden’s capacity to sustain growth and equity in the long term requires synergies among sectoral policies at the national and regional scale in order to enhance innovation and entrepreneurship in all regions. Building on the government’s renewed commitment to regional growth policy, recent initiatives have focused on promoting business development in all parts of the country including sparsely populated regions.

Further efforts to facilitate the diffusion of knowledge and to improve the functioning of regional labour markets through more effective urban-rural linkages could help maximise regional growth potential. This chapter starts with an overview of recent regional policy in Sweden.

It then discusses policy options to strengthen regional innovation systems, to fully exploit regional skills, and to explore regional opportunities for green growth. Finally, it considers ways to better link infrastructure investment with regional development priorities.



Chapter 3


Whether Sweden can still achieve growth and equity objectives in the future will largely depend on its capacity to set in motion a virtuous circle based on synergies among sectoral policies at the regional scale. This calls for a collaborative process of policy design and implementation involving all levels of government.

Sweden’s multi-level governance system has sometimes been compared to an “hourglass”, as it combines a highly decentralised system for the provision of welfare services with a relatively centralised system for strategic planning and regional development. In addition to external and structural constraints, institutional challenges can hamper the effective implementation of regional development policy objectives. This chapter is divided in two sections.

The first section assesses the key strengths and challenges of Swedish governance arrangements for achieving its twin objectives of sustained territorial equity and enhanced regional growth. The second section seeks responses to challenges for bridging co-ordination gaps across policies at the regional level, further empowering regional actors for regional growth policy and enhancing cost-effective local public services.




       The launch of the study was carried out at a live national conference in Stockholm, 3 February 2009. Click on image to watch the video.

 National territorial reviews

The Territorial Review of Sweden is integrated into a wider programme of national territorial reviews undertaken by the OECD Territorial Development Policy Committee. The overall aim of the territorial review series is to provide practical policy advice to national governments. The countries previously reviewed have been:


  Canada   Chile            Czech Republic Denmark
  Finland   France   Hungary       Iceland
  Luxembourg     Mexico   Norway  
    Portugal  Slovak Republic Spain
  Spain     Switzerland  


 How to obtain this publication

Readers can access the full version of OECD Territorial Reviews: Sweden by choosing from the following options:


 What the papers say


 Related conferences

 The OECD Territorial Review of Sweden was launched officially on 3 February 2010 in Stockholm during a conference organised by the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications. The conference in Stockholm was followed by two conferences in Göteborg and Luleå.


 Further information


For further information on the OECD Territorial Review of Sweden, please contact Ms. Soo-Jin Kim (, Mrs. Dorothée Allain-Dupré ( and Mr. José-Enrique Garcilazo (

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