Swedish word of the day: myndighet

Swedish word of the day: myndighet
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's word will help you follow the news and get a greater understanding of how Swedish society functions.

Myndighet means 'agency' or 'authority'.

In Sweden it often refers specifically to the statliga myndigheter or state agencies. But you can also talk about regionala or kommunala myndigheter (regional or municipal authorities), or use it to talk about authorities in other countries, for example spanska myndigheter (Spanish authorities or lokala myndigheter (local authorities).

There are over 200 state agencies in Sweden, including many you will probably have heard of such as the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) and the Swedish Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten).

This group also covers many universities and higher education institutions as well as the Swedish Police (Polismyndigheten), and Sweden's National Museum, for example.

As you can see, not all myndigheter have the word myndighet in their name. Several have -verket (agency) or Ombudsman in the name instead. 

It is written into the national constitution that Sweden's public agencies are independent of the government. 

The government usually appoints the director of Swedish agencies, but they are not political positions and people often stay in their roles even after changes of government.

Agencies are not able to make laws, but they exert considerable influence over their field. Only the government can pass laws, although it usually consults individual agencies before doing so. 

Although Sweden's government ministries oversee different agencies – for example the work of the Migration Agency falls under the remit of the Migration Minister – there is generally a hands-off approach. Ministers and governments tend not to overrule agencies or disregard their advice, though this is not forbidden in many circumstances.

There are two main goals of this separation: ensuring that decisions are made based on knowledge and expertise, and limiting corruption, because ministers cannot have influence in agency decision-making.

But a frequent criticism is that the separation leads to unnecessary red tape or delays and a lack of accountability for problems. For example, there may be cases where the government and relevant authority both agree something is a problem, but the authority says they are simply following the law while the government defers to the agency when it comes to interpreting the law.

Examples

Det är viktigt att myndigheterna samarbetar

It is important for the authorities to work together

Sedan är det upp till de lokala myndigheterna

Then it's up to the local authorities


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