Research Report

The Fight against Welfare Fraud in Sweden (with Sara Yarden)
March 2014

Over the last decade there has been growing public interest in the fight against welfare fraud in Sweden, leading to the establishment of the Commission against Benefit Fraud and Errors in 2005. The commission determined that the scale of welfare fraud in Sweden was nearly SEK 10 billion.  This estimate, which amounted to 4% of social security benefits during 2007, has been corroborated by the Social Insurance Agency.  A recent study based on expert assessment has estimated that the figure may range between SEK 4 and 29 billion. Based on a historical-institutional perspective, the paper analyzes this process and explains variations in the fight against welfare fraud among different administrative agencies; within the regional branches of agencies, and among law enforcement agencies. It focuses on the ways the main actors in the fight against welfare fraud implement the key policy in this field which centers on prevention, that benefits should be correct from the start, and includes the introduction of special control staff for investigations of suspected benefit fraud in the Social Insurance Agency and the National Board of Student Aid. The lack of comprehensive data regarding the fight against welfare fraud in Sweden inhibits quantitative analysis as well as comparison with other countries.