One of the things that takes a little getting used to in Sweden is the usage of one's personal number. If you move here for any length of time, you are given a number, which you use as your identity for everything.
This is particularly intimidating for us Yanks, I think, because this is often seen as one of the 'scary' aspects of socialism. The government sees everything you do – and can track everything you do.
How this plays out in Sweden, however, is pretty odd.
The truth is, I can go in and find out what all of my neighbors earned last year, and how much tax they paid, no problem. I also can pick up the phone, call my local government, and find out more about my neighbors – since Sweden has a very solid Freedom of Information act – I can get lots of details (albeit not their medical information or other confidentially ruled items).
But, strangely enough, every year I read an article in the paper that there just aren't enough places at the local daycare centers for the little kiddies.
Now here is the deal, Sweden provides wonderful subsidized daycare for all kids between 1-6. You get 40 hours a week, and pay roughly 1,000 SEK per month(this varies depending on how many kids you have in daycare at a time) – that's right, full time daycare for about 150 dollars. Yay, right?
And in each municipality all the pregnant folk have to register their pregnancy – even if they go through private care – the information is sent to the National Insurance Agency.
This means that 6-7 months before the kids are born, the municipality has a pretty good idea of how many kids will be born that given year. They then have one year after their birth to plan daycare adequate for all of the children. There is the option in some municipalities to decline a daycare place and take the subsidy instead for SAHM. But, let's be honest, you can get a pretty good sense of the amount of daycare places you will need 1.5 years before they are needed, all by taking a look at the information via personal numbers.
But every year, despite reports of baby booms – the daycare folk seem SHOCKED that there are so many kids turning 1 that year, and there aren't enough places to go around.
I'm glad big brother isn't all up in my business – but really, this would just be a simple and very helpful thing to accomplish!