Until recently credit cards were relatively hard to obtain in Sweden.
But as they have become more readily available, the number of those getting into financial difficulty through spending on such cards has increased dramatically.
Credit card debt in Sweden has tripled since 2001, from around 350 million US dollars, to more than 1.1 billion dollars today. According to Stockholm debt advisor Gunhild Wasstorp, credit card debt in the Swedish capital is now more common than unpaid bank loans.
Wasstorp says Swedes are spending ever greater amounts on credit – from around 2.3 billion US dollars in 2001, to more than 3.6 billion dollars in June this year.
Karin Hällsten, at the Swedish Consumer Agency, blames the ease with which credit can be secured in Sweden, adding that credit checks fail to help in determining credit worthiness, if a person loses a job or falls ill. Hällsten advises those in difficulty to turn to local authorities for help as soon as they find themselves in financial difficulty.
However, Swedish Radio News found that many of these agencies were swamped with people seeking help, and waiting times of many months not uncommon.