Sweden’s economy has fared better during the peak three months of the coronavirus pandemic than the European average, the country’s statistics agency has reported, adding to growing evidence that the decision to avoid a full lockdown is paying economic dividends.
The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 8.6 per cent in April and June, compared to the preceding three months, Statistics Sweden reported.
The average drop of the ten member states who have so far submitted flash estimates for the three months is 11.9 per cent, the EU’s statistics agency reported last week. Spain, France and Italy did still worse, with their economies contracting by 18.5, 13.8, and 12.4 percent respectively.
This is the biggest quarterly drop for Sweden since 1980, meaning the country has taken a bigger hit than in either its 1990s financial crisis or in the 2008 banking crash.
Magdalena Andersson, the finance minister, nonetheless welcomed the figures at a press conference following the announcement.
“It’s a historic fall, but, at the same time, less than in many other countries, and actually less than I was expecting back in June,” she said.
Sweden kept open primary and lower secondary schools, kindergartens, restaurants, bars offices and shops throughout the pandemic, although both the government and the Public Health Agency have insisted this was not motivated by a wish to protect the economy.
Robert Bergqvist, chief economist at the country’s SEB Bank, said that the official figures confirmed trends his analysts had been seeing for some time.