In Stockholm’s richest inner-city neighbourhood, Östermalm, private yachts and floating cocktail bars hug the marina. The adjacent tree-lined boulevard, Strandvägen, boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the Swedish capital, as well as exclusive boutiques and independent restaurants. Nearby, ornate 18th Century buildings house luxurious office spaces and private member’s bars.
The area is packed with people in designer sunglasses soaking up the autumn sunshine. But finding someone who’s comfortable talking about their wealth is almost impossible.
“I’m not going to tell you how much I make because I don’t know why I should,” says 30-year-old Robert Ingemarsson, who has a senior job in marketing. Asked what he does with his money, he says simply: “I spend it on stocks. I like investing”.
Victor Hesse, 24, who’s out shopping, says he’s about to embark on an international talent programme for a major Swedish brand. But when asked about his salary, he says: “That’s classified”.
Standard narratives about Sweden tend to highlight its social democracy, high taxes and low income inequality by global standards. But while this stereotype is rooted in facts, the gap between the rich and the poor has been steadily widening since the 1990s. The top 20% of the population now earn four times as much as the bottom 20%.