Inside Business

Sweden has more billionaires per capita than the US – why?

How has a country with a high-tax economy managed to create an environment where the super-rich flourish and are happy to stay? Chris Blackhurst takes a closer look at the birthplace of some of the world’s biggest companies, from Spotify to Ikea and H&M, to see what lessons can be learnt

Saturday 11 May 2024 06:00 BST
It’s a rich man’s world: turns out Abba were right on the money...
It’s a rich man’s world: turns out Abba were right on the money... (Moviestore/Shutterstock/Abba)

This weekend, Spotify will go into overdrive. It’s Eurovision time and the annual song contest is set to be bigger than ever, smashing all viewing and streaming records. Last year’s grand final, in Liverpool, was watched by 162 million people. The day after, the winning entry, “Tattoo”, by Swedish singer Loreen, was streamed 4.2 million times, comfortably beating the previous highest tally in 2021.

Loreen became the first woman to win the contest twice. It’s fitting, then, that her triumph returns the competition to Sweden – the country where Spotify was also founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in 2006. Today, it has around 250 million subscribers, making multibillionaires of its two creators.

Ek and Lorentzon are firmly established in the pantheon of Sweden’s super-rich. They’re among 43 “dollar billionaires”, says Forbes, to hail from a nation of just 10 million. The US, by contrast, has far more billionaires – 813 – but as it is home to 342 million people, Sweden has more billionaires per capita: four billionaires for every million inhabitants, versus the US’s two per million.

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