The extent of corruption in Sweden can be underestimated

Illustration of the principle underlying the “risk of corruption” as applied to nepotism. A measured tie-level treatment effect can either be explained by pure nepotism or by other uses of social capital, such as information dissemination. Credit: Corruption Risks in a Mature Democracy: Social Advantage Mechanisms and Corruption Risk Zones (2023). DOI: 10.3384/9789180750073

There is a risk that people will benefit from having relatives in important positions in the public sector. This is shown in a PhD thesis at Linköping University investigating corruption in a mature democracy. The conclusion is that nepotism may be an underestimated problem that deserves more attention in Sweden.

Sweden is usually ranked as a country with a low level of corruption. This is true when we look at, for example, the number of convictions for bribery.

However, critics claim that the extent of corruption may still be underestimated, as the ratings may miss forms of corruption that are harder to detect and have a less obvious impact on people’s daily lives. An example of this is when politicians or civil servants make decisions that illegally benefit their friends or relatives, i.e. what is known as nepotism or crony corruption.

To investigate this, Emanuel Wittberg, in his PhD thesis, analyzed archive data for the entire Swedish population, related to, for example, workplace, educational level and family relationships.

The results show that people whose parents or siblings work for public bodies or public owners are more likely to find a job or an apartment. There are also indications that local businesses may be favored in public procurement.

“Both when it comes to housing owned by any municipal owner and jobs in any municipality or government agency, we’re talking about increased chances of 2 to 4 percent,” says Emanuel Wittberg, a doctoral student at the Institute for Analytical Sociology. and the Center for Local Government Studies at Linköping University.

According to Emanuel Wittberg, this difference is statistically significant.

There may of course be many explanations for this other than nepotism. Individuals may differ in their backgrounds, motivations, preferences and knowledge of how society works and this may affect the results. To eliminate such factors, Emanuel Wittberg has compared people who are similar, but some of whom have contacts and some of whom do not.

However, it is not possible to eliminate uncertainty, as the record data does not contain all the information. It therefore points out that the results show where there may be a risk of nepotism, although it is not possible to determine that nepotism is involved in every single case.

“My thesis suggests that this is a problem that is important to study and monitor, also in a mature democracy like Sweden.”

There is a risk that corruption will erode citizens’ trust in public institutions. In Emanuel Wittberg’s opinion, this can be avoided by ensuring transparency so that decisions can be reviewed. There may also be a need for more awareness training and better procedures, such as making job applications more anonymous.

Emanuel Wittberg says that what is special about his thesis is not only that it investigates corruption in a mature democracy but also the method used: large-scale data analysis. His research includes many individuals, organizations and businesses, analyzed over a long period of time. According to him, the results are a first step to get an idea of ​​the risk of large-scale nepotism.

More information:
Emanuel Wittberg, Risks of Corruption in a Mature Democracy: Mechanisms of Social Advantage and Risk Zones for Corruption, (2023). DOI: 10.3384/9789180750073 … 36370/FULLTEXT01.pdf

Provided by Linköping University

Reference: Extent of corruption in Sweden may be underestimated (2023, March 14) retrieved March 14, 2023 from

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