Published on Data Blog

Swedish firms provide training and consider an inadequately educated workforce as the major obstacle to their operations

This page in:
The private sector is a critical driver of job creation and economic growth. However, several factors can undermine private enterprise and, if left unresolved, may blunt growth. Through rigorous face-to-face interviews with managers and owners of private firms, the World Bank Group’s Enterprise Surveys benchmark the business environment in countries, based on the direct experiences of firms.
This blog is based on the Sweden Enterprise Survey (ES), which covered 600 firms across 4 regions and 6 business sectors.

Gender equality is one of the cornerstones of modern Swedish society. In the workplace, however, women are still underrepresented at the upper levels of corporate responsibility and decision-making, especially in the private sector. While women constitute more than one-third of the country’s private sector workforce, they account for only 23% of all managers—with an even smaller percentage of top managers. In 2013, when the Sweden Enterprise Survey was conducted, only 12% of firms in Sweden were led by a top woman manager.

Breaking the glass ceiling for working women is still an issue

The vertical segregation of women in the Swedish private sector is even more surprising when compared to other OECD countries with ES data. In Latvia, for example, almost one in three firms is managed by a woman top manager. In Estonia, one in four firms is managed by a woman. While in Sweden only one in eight firms is run by a woman top manager. These data suggest that breaking the “glass ceiling” is still an issue in the Swedish private sector despite the high level of women’s participation in the labor market overall.

Firms in Sweden invest in the skills of their workforce

Another insightful finding is that Swedish firms tend to invest in the skills of their workforce. In the services sector, 72% of firms offer formal training programs to their employees, followed by 58% of manufacturing firms. As a result, services firms are less likely to identify “inadequately educated workforce” as a major constraint to their operations (14%), compared to manufacturers (34%), suggesting that firms operating in the service sector are better able to deal with the challenges of an inadequately educated workforce through a combination of hiring and training programs.

Inadequately educated workforce is the top obstacle for Swedish firms

The Enterprise Survey asked business owners and top managers to name the biggest obstacles that their firm faces in its everyday operations. An inadequately educated workforce was the most frequently mentioned top obstacle, ranking first for 28% of firms, which perhaps explains why the large majority of firms provide formal training to their employees. The second most frequently cited obstacle was labor regulations (18%). Interestingly, the third most-reported obstacle was access to land (10%). The combination of difficult access to land that emerged for the question on obstacle with very long waiting period required to obtain a construction permit also reported by Swedish firms may limits the ability for larger firms to expand their operations and for small and medium firms to grow.

For more details on the Sweden Enterprise Survey, please see the Country Highlights. The raw survey data can also be obtained here upon registration.
This post is from a blog series that shares highlights from Enterprise Surveys conducted in several countries. Previous postings in this series cover:


Silvia Muzi

Program Coordinator, Enterprise Analysis Unit, World Bank

Asif Islam

Senior Economist, Office of the Chief Economist, Middle East and North Africa Region, The World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000