How does your municipality work?

Last updated: 3 9 2018

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

Everyone in Sweden lives in a municipality. There are 290 municipalities in Sweden. In Sweden, the municipalities decide themselves how much their inhabitants have to pay in municipal tax and what the money will be used for. This is called municipal autonomy.

A committee is a group of politicians that makes decision within a specific area in the municipality, such as schools. Other areas include childcare, care of the elderly, social services, traffic, the environment, recreation and culture.

Politicians on the committees often work part time as politicians, meaning that they also have a normal job or are studying. Each committee receives different amounts of money. How much they receive is decided in the municipality's budget. Each committee has an administration in which public officials work on planning and carrying out what the committee has decided.

The municipality is often responsible for issues that affect your everyday life. There is information below about the areas the municipalities are responsible for:


Childcare is a collective name for educational activities for younger children. Childcare encompasses such activities as preschools, family day nurseries and after-school recreation centres.

Those who study, work or are looking for work have the right to leave their children in a preschool in their local area. Preschools are for children aged one to five.

All children in Sweden have the right to go attend a preschool class when they are six. Photo: Colourbox

Compulsory school

There are municipal compulsory schools for children ages six to 16 in all municipalities. There are also independent schools and completely private schools. If you send your child to a private school, you have to pay a fee. The municipal and independent schools are paid for through taxes. A child can get a place in a preschool class the year they turn six. You can choose whether or not your child goes to preschool class. The majority of children in Sweden do. When your child turns seven they must go to school. This is called compulsory school attendance. Compulsory school is free in both municipal and independent schools. You can find a list of the schools in your municipality on the municipality's website.

Care of the elderly Photo: Susanne Kronholm, Johnér

Care of the elderly

Old people often need help with practical aspects of their daily lives. Swedish law gives older people the right to receive help and support from society.

Many old people want to continue living in their own homes. The municipality can facilitate this by providing care and services in the home. This is called home-help service. You apply for home-help service from your municipality. Fees for home-help service vary depending on which municipality you live in. It is also possible to get assistive devices or other things that make it easier to continue living at home, such as wheeled walkers, larger shower cabinets or lower thresholds.

If it is not possible to keep living at home, it is possible to move into housing that is specially adapted for older people. There are various forms of municipal sheltered accommodation where older people can live in their own apartment. Sheltered accommodation has staff that can help older people with care and services such as food and cleaning.

Social services/social welfare offices 

As elsewhere in the world, parents in Sweden have to look after their children and adolescents. But when this does not work out, for whatever reason, the main responsibility for the welfare of children and adolescents falls to the municipality's social services. The social services provide help for children and families who are having a hard time in various ways. This can be for families who are short of money. Or it can be for people who have nowhere to live, have substance abuse problems or are subjected to threats and violence. Help from the social services can take the form of counselling, parenting courses, or a contact person for young people or for the whole family. A contact person is like an extra friend or relative to talk to or do fun things with. If someone notifies the social services that a child is being treated badly at home, the law dictates that the social services have to investigate the child's situation.

If there are very serious problems concerning the child, social services can decide that the child has to move away from their parents.

At the social welfare office, you can get:

  • At the social welfare office, you can get:
  • advice and help for young people and families with children,
  • advice and help if you have addiction problems,
  • advice and help about work and studies, and
  • financial assistance.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is a form of help you can apply for from the social services in your municipality if you have problems with your own maintenance. You can receive financial assistance for your maintenance, in which case it is known as income support. You can also receive financial assistance for other necessary expenses aside from maintenance, such as for childcare, medical care, medicines or dental care.

Income support is made up of two parts: the national standard sum (which is the same all over the country) and specific household costs, which include rent, household electricity and home insurance. Household income is then subtracted from the sum total of income support before it is paid out.

Financial support can be granted if the need for it cannot be met in any other way. If the person applying for income support is able to work, s/he must work or look for work. There is also an obligation to participate in activities arranged by the social services with the aim of making it easier to find work. If you don't participate, your application for income support may be turned down. If you have money in the bank or own a valuable object such as a car, you will usually not be eligible for financial support.

Recreation and culture

Swedish municipalities provide various recreational and cultural services. Municipalities have libraries where you can borrow books free of charge. Some have culture schools where children and young people can learn, for a small fee, how to play instruments, paint or act. Municipalities sometimes also provide support to clubs and associations.

Photo: Colourbox


All Swedish municipalities have libraries for their inhabitants. The largest are often centrally located and called city libraries.

Bigger municipalities also usually have library branches in different parts of the municipality. In libraries you can borrow books, read newspapers, listen to music and use computers. They have books and newspapers in many different languages. Some libraries also provide language training and homework help.

You can borrow books, magazines and CDs free of charge. To borrow, you need a library card (lending card). You can get this at the library.

Consumer office

Most municipalities have a consumer help centre where you can get help e.g. if you have bought something that is faulty or that you are otherwise not happy with. The consumer help centre will inform you what your rights and obligations are as a consumer, and what to do if you want to return a faulty item.

Contact with public authorities

There are various ways to contact a public agency in Sweden. If your questions are basic, it is best to use the agency's website. Agencies often have information in various languages on their websites. Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency), for example, has information in 22 languages including Arabic, Somali, Farsi and Sorani. You can also visit the agencies' offices.

You have the right to an interpreter. Photo: Colourbox

The right to an interpreter

If you do not understand Swedish, you have the right to have an interpreter. You have the right to an interpreter at Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, social services and in hospital. You must say that you need an interpreter when you book an appointment.