Welfare state in crisis

Editorials by Mikael Eliasson

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN I headed out into the biting January chill. In front of me lay Riddarfjärden, icy and white, as the backdrop to Södermalm’s rising cityscape. The doors to the City Hall closed behind me, marking the end of the grand graduation ceremony, which I had the honour of attending. The Swedish Police had just gained 170 newly qualified and much-needed officers!

The watchwords from the ceremony were serving the citizens and taking responsibility. In these complex and challenging times, ever tougher demands are being made of our key social functions. The police are the authority that, in the most brutal way, has to bear the brunt of a foundering integration policy, in the form of threats, stone-throwing and shootings. These attacks take place almost exclusively in the Million Programme suburbs, which are being made the scapegoat for the failures.

These areas, with their thoroughly rational design, are thus becoming synonymous with poor adaptation and lack of hope. Taking the issue further, it is here that the housing shortage is most visible, since the construction rate is unable to keep up with demand, both immediate and in the long term. The result is an increasingly marked polarisation and segregation, which is driving society in a dangerous direction.

Creating a functioning and sustainable society requires everyone to play their part and accept their responsibilities. At the heart of our country’s capacity to deliver prosperity, progress and not least an innovative climate lies our democratic tradition, a transparent and effective administration, trust and a responsible market economy.

There is still time to head off an undesirable trend, but it will take both resolute action to build our way out of the housing crisis, and a clear long-term strategy for sustainable urban planning. We have to ask ourselves, every day, what we can do to help.

Wood-based construction has grown over the past 20 years, bringing innovation, competition and sustainability to the construction sector. Add to that increasingly challenging, creative and socially conscious architecture and we have a great deal to contribute.

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