Equal city - Making the entire city socially sustainable
What is Equal city?
The City of Gothenburg budget includes the aim “Gothenburg will be an equal city”. Whilst the aims of equality and social sustainability have been included in the city budget for a long time, with effect from 2016 they will be combined into one single aim.
“Equal city” is the name given to the long-term initiative aimed at making Gothenburg an equal city. The process involves reducing disparities in living conditions and health in Gothenburg and ensuring that the city develops in a way that is socially sustainable.
There is a strong commitment in Gothenburg to create a more equal city. There is also widespread involvement by the private sector and civil society.
Why does Gothenburg need to become more equal?
The more people who prosper, the more can contribute to building a sustainable and fair society. That is why equal societies work better. Research shows that greater equality in living conditions and health will lead to a greater sense of cohesion, trust and participation throughout the city.
Fundamentally, it is a question of human rights. An equal city does not mean that everyone is equal. It means an equal opportunity to enjoy good health and lead a good life regardless of your parents' level of education, your income or where you happen to live.
Why should Gothenburg become more equal?
Working for equality is a good investment. Apart from the fact that people have a better life, it costs considerably less to prevent poor health compared to dealing with its consequences. An efficient, socially sustainable society creates good conditions for establishing and developing trade, industry and enterprise.
The obligation to work towards bringing about social sustainability is laid down in law in several areas. The Instrument of Government (part of the Constitution) states:
“The personal, economic and cultural welfare of the individual shall be the fundamental goal of public institutions. (…) Public institutions shall also encourage everyone to participate in society on an equal footing, and ensure that the rights of the child are safeguarded.”
Equality in Gothenburg
For most people, Gothenburg is a good city to grow up and live in. But there are significant disparities in living conditions and health between different groups and in different areas and the gap is widening. The average income, for example, has risen in most areas, but has fallen in those areas that had the lowest average income from the outset.
Generally, those with a high income and a longer period of formal education have better living conditions and are in better health than those with a shorter period of formal education and a low income.
The differences affect the whole city. It is not only individual areas or groups that are affected by problems related to segregation. It is a question of how areas and groups compare with each other.
Equal in Gothenburg in numbers
- The difference in average life expectancy between different areas is 7.5 years for women and 9.1 years for men.
- In certain areas of the city, 60 per cent of households are under financial strain. In other areas, the figure is 2 per cent.
- 19 per cent of households with children are at risk of poverty.
- In some areas, 50 per cent of people state that they do not trust other people. In other areas, the figure is only 11 per cent.
- Among the adult population in Gothenburg, 18 per cent of those with a low level of education feel socially isolated, whilst the figure for those with a high level of education is just 2 per cent.
- 93 per cent of children of parents with a high level of education qualify for vocational upper secondary school programmes, whilst only 49 percent of children of parents with a low level of education qualify.
How we make Gothenburg equal
The focus is on health promotion and implementing initiatives early on in children´s lives. Initiatives are implemented broadly and to the benefit of everyone although with emphasis on those with greatest needs.
The task of creating an equal city is being pursued simultaneously on several levels and across the city. There is a politically agreed strategy with four areas of focus.
The work for greater equality in Gothenburg is characterised by broad-based participation and a clear allocation of responsibility within the framework of the municipal organisation.
We need to be patient and work systematically. Working to bring about equality is a long-term effort and it can take several years before we see results.
Four areas of focus for an Equal Gothenburg
- Create a good start in life and good conditions throughout the school years.
- Create preconditions for employment.
- Create health-promoting and sustainable environments and communities.
- Create preconditions for participation, influence and trust.
For each area one of two directors have been appointed with responsibility to take the work forward across the city.
What we are currently working on
There are agreements to set up at least one family centres in each city district. The family centre approach will be reinforced throughout the city.
The city is cooperating closely with the police taking measures to prevent crime and improve people´s sense of safety in vulnerable areas.
The mobilisation issue Gothenburg - the city where we read to our children is evident in many areas in the city. Several new schemes to promote reading are planned for this year.
Around 60 new arrivals who have been granted a residence permit will take part in various schemes in collaboration with Framtiden and the Parks and Landscape Administration. The participants will be offered Swedish lessons, work experience and vocational training in sectors in which there is a shortage of workers.
The step-by-step model Important Real Jobs, which is being run in partnership with the private sector, has started up as a pilot project in three districts.
Several training programmes have been introduced for city employees and political representatives. These include a more in-depth module at higher education level and a more basic online course.
The social dimension is being applied in construction and planning. New forms of collaboration have been developed together with the city authority, academia and property developers.
Formalised collaboration with civil society in some of the most prioritized areas is in progress.
A new report on success factors for improved school attendance has been published. Several assessments and reports are under way, on issues such as:
- Participation and empowerment in order to foster greater trust and confidence
- How culture and leisure activities will become more accessible to all children
- Areas in which more health-promoting arenas are needed
- The level and type of parental support in the city and how it can be developed
- How more parents can secure jobs
Equal city in international media
The Guardian July 2017: The new 'people's home': how Sweden is waging war on inequality