SALTSJÖBADEN, A CHARMING seaside town on the outskirts of Stockholm, has an iconic place in Swedish economic history. The “Saltsjöbaden Accord”, signed there between unions and employers in 1938, ushered in the consensus system of labour relations that remains a pillar of Sweden’s economic model. Nowadays the town is famous for a different reason. It is one of Stockholm’s fanciest suburbs, and the setting for “Sunny Side”, a popular television comedy that pokes fun at the country’s new rich. In the show, Saltsjöbaden’s yuppy residents fret over how to get their babies into the best nursery. A badly behaved child is threatened with banishment to Fisksätra, a poor enclave a few train stops away, where immigrants from 100 countries cram into dilapidated blocks of flats.
The most equal country in the world is becoming less so. Sweden’s Gini coefficient for disposable income is now 0.24, still a lot lower than the rich-world average of 0.31 but around 25% higher than it was a generation ago. That rise is causing considerable angst in a nation whose self-image is staunchly egalitarian. A leftist group caused a media hubbub earlier this year by organising a “class safari” bus tour of Saltsjöbaden and Fisksätra. Opposition leaders insist that the ruling centre-right party is turning Sweden into America.