– By Johanna Sköld What were you doing in 2001? What music did you listen to? What clothes did you wear? These are questions that Swedish Union Confederation TCO wants you to ask yourself in a new social media campaign, designed to bring the issue of t …

Tim Lezard Europe, Scandinavia,

tbt2001

– By Johanna Sköld

What were you doing in 2001? What music did you listen to? What clothes did you wear? These are questions that Swedish Union Confederation TCO wants you to ask yourself in a new social media campaign, designed to bring the issue of the need to increase the levels of unemployment benefits onto the political agenda ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

The maximum amount that you can receive in unemployment benefits has not increased since 2001. TCO wants to change this through the current campaign and call on people to post pictures or tweets of something that embodies the year 2001 for them under the hashtag #tbt2001, and then point out how much that has changed since then, while the ceiling for unemployment benefits has stayed the same. Football references have been running high, it has for example been mentioned that in 2001, Sven-Göran Eriksson became the manager of the England national football team, and Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was still playing for the local club Malmö FF. Others have used pictures that focus on the technical developments we have seen since 2001.

In 2001, everyone would save their data on floppy disks, a lot has changed since then, but the unemployment benefits are still the same.

 

This tweet is pointing out that some things have been getting better since 2001, referring to this first version of Wikipedia that was launched in 2001.

 


In 2001, the Nokia 3310 was the coolest mobile you could own, but a lot has happened in the history of mobile phones since then.

 

Unemployment benefits in Sweden are distributed by the unions, but you have to pay a monthly fee if you want to be covered by it. This insurance-like system would normally give you 80 % of you salary if you lose your job. There is however a maximum for how much you can be paid, set by the government, and this ceiling is now 15,000 kronor (around 1,600 euros) a month. Although salaries have generally risen, this maximum ceiling has not changed since 2001. During this time, the cost of housing for a family has increased by 33 % and the monthly cost of food for a 25-year-old has increased by 79 %. To actually get 80 % of your salary, you cannot earn more than 18 700 kronor (around 2000 euros) a month, but today, 90 % of people in full time employment earn more than that. This means that many people on unemployment benefits would hardly have enough to cover their basic monthly costs of living. Another worrying aspect is that fewer workers chose to join the unemployment benefits system, as they know that the benefits they are supposed to get if they pay the monthly fee are in fact not very beneficial. This trend is however mainly explained by a massive 2007 increase in fees for the unemployment benefits system, instituted by the government in order to finance general income tax cuts. Since the beginning of the year, the fees are once again lowered, but the question is whether more workers will now again join the system, considering that most of them will not receive the 80 % of the salary that the system is supposed to guarantee in case of unemployment.

It is easy to see why an increase in the maximum ceiling is needed, but the political parties have so far not made this an issue ahead of the elections. Whether this campaign can change that remains to be seen, but as some politicians have already joined the campaign and shared their thoughts, it can hopefully have an impact and the financial situation for the unemployed could eventually be improved.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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