In Sweden, inflation at 12% is suffocating the population

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In Suè of, inflation at 12% is suffocating the population

To se move without spending money, 10% of Swedes cycle to work.

In Sweden, inflation reached 11.7%, a peak for Western Europe. Even if the social safety net is important, young people and people in precarious situations suffer from it in the capital. Inequalities are increasing to such an extent that some are considering leaving.

That Tuesday, the night was rather quiet in Stockholm. Only the old town, Gamla Stan, and its medieval-style cobbled streets seem to be in the mood for a bit of partying.

At the Stampen cabaret, in Stockholm's old quarter, Gamla Stan, big names in jazz have played, but amateurs also manage to find a place on the stage.

A few notes escape from the doors of the Stampen, a legendary jazz cabaret with a ceiling overloaded with suspended trumpets. Many big names in jazz have been there.

But that evening, it was Jon, a young double bass player, and his friends who tried to thrill the meager audience gathered. Feel free to give us even a little bit, it helps us to live. Despite his pleas, the empty beer jug ​​supposed to receive the donations rings hollow at the end of the evening.

I graduated from the conservatory two years ago. I've been living off it ever since, but now I feel the inflation is affecting me. After the pandemic, the concerts started again, I made some money, but now I'm poor.

A friend of his left Stockholm because of the skyrocketing prices. He is holding out for now, but he can no longer put a Swedish krona aside. According to Sweden's central statistics office, during the last big wave of inflation 30 years ago, 7% of the population was in relative poverty, i.e. earning 60% or less median income. Last year, the percentage of people living in relative poverty doubled to 14%.

However, Sweden has tools to rely on in the face of inflation, for example a very affordable rent system which was set up in the post-war period. All citizens can access it, but you still have to register early enough to find a roof. In the face of demand, the wait for access to these apartments is now almost 10 years, according to Bloomberg.

Otherwise, in subletting, prices explode quickly, as Jon says. An apartment in central Stockholm can be over $2,000 a month. Not all musicians are able to afford that. Daily expenses have skyrocketed. Many artists […] have to find a job on the side to compensate, like working at the grocery store, explains the double bassist.

Fiji works in a hostel in Norrmalm, a lively district in downtown Stockholm.

The price of butter has risen by almost a quarter in 2022, like that of meat . These soaring sums have made Fiji want to do the same. In Sweden for more than a year, the young woman, who works in a hostel in a trendy district of the capital, plans to return to France, less affected by inflation, in the coming months.

Indeed, even if she is housed for free by the hostel, she does not manage to live comfortably. I spend as much as I earn. I have no choice, everything is expensive. A metro ticket is 40 crowns ($5). Result: Swedes walk a lot, cycle a lot.

What revolts her the most is the cost of food. She says she has to watch the price of each food so her wallet doesn't get too thin: The outings, the activities, I can pay attention to that. But a packet of rice is 4 euros here ($6). I tell myself that it's not possible, what!

Matmissionen stores operate mainly thanks to donations, explains Simon Stegrud.

The average annual salary of Swedes exceeds $67,000, but for low earners, the grocery store is no longer frequentable.

When they want to escape the high cost of living, the inhabitants of Stockholm head for Jakobsberg, in the county of the capital, to go to one of the Matmissionen grocery stores.

To describe these grocery stores, Simon Stegrud, store coordinator, speaks of a social supermarket. Behind him, a label can be confusing: it displays two prices for the same product, a package of sliced ​​bread. The package costs 3 Swedish crowns ($0.38)… or 13 ($1.68). It's normal, says Simon smiling.

The principle, launched by an NGO: members who come here pay for their fruit and vegetables at a price that corresponds to their means.< /p>

“If you earn less than 12,000 Swedish kronor per month ($1530), you can be a member. You'll get a 70% discount on groceries.

— Simon Stegrud, Stores Coordinator Matmissionen

The vast majority of customers who come are members and therefore in need. Those who are not can also come and shop here and pay for fruits and vegetables without reduction. By doing this, they help finance the low prices of the less well-off, as a sign of solidarity.

Poverty affects more Swedes born abroad. Nearly half said they couldn't afford an unexpected $1,600 expense, compared to 11% of native-born Swedes.

Wahiba, of Turkish origin, has been coming to Matmissionen since this year. I can't work, I have a disability pension. I have never experienced such a price hike. It's hard to see that we can't buy anything. It makes me unstable, mentally. Here, it makes me feel good, I come as much as I can. I can't find everything I want, but whatever is available makes me happy.

In one year, due to the effect of inflation, the number of Matmissionen members has more than doubled in Stockholm. We went from 600 to 1500 members in a year here. Previously, it had taken 6 years to reach 600. Faced with this success, Matmissionen opened two new stores in Stockholm, as many in Gothenburg and one in Malmö. And this year, we are going to open some in other regions, because the situation is also difficult in small towns, specifies Simon.

At the Stampen, Jon packs up his double bass, and his optimism: he fears more than inflation. Sweden's new government has cut the culture budget by nearly $100 million this year. The government budget does not benefit culture. Theaters are feeling the cuts… and so are we. During the pandemic, we had subsidies; now it's different.

While waiting for the economy to change tempo, he hopes to continue to live from his job without having to worry about what he will have left at the end of the month.

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