Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities and 20 county councils/regions.
There is no hierarchical relation between municipalities, county councils and regions, since all have their own self-governing local authorities with responsibility for different activities. The only exception is Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, where the municipality also has the responsibilities and tasks normally associated with a county council.
The Parliament, Riksdagen, is the supreme political decision-making body in Sweden.
Local government has a long tradition in Sweden. The country's municipalities, county councils and regions are responsible for providing a significant proportion of all public services. They have a considerable degree of autonomy and have independent powers of taxation. Local self-government and the right to levy taxes are stipulated in the Instrument of Government, one of the four pillars of the Swedish Constitution.
There are approximately 46,000 political assignments in the 290 municipalities and 3,500 political assignments in the 20 county councils and regions. This means that 1 per cent of the adult population in Sweden holds a political assignment in a municipality or county council.
In local government councils, 42 per cent of the councillors are women and 58 per cent are men. In the county council assemblies, 47 per cent are women and 53 per cent are men.
Approximately half the councillors in local government councils and county council assemblies are between 50 and 65 years old. Only 5 per cent are between 18 and 29 years old and close to 10 per cent are older than 65.
Overall, municipalities and county councils employ more than one million people, corresponding roughly to 25 per cent of total employment in Sweden.
Municipalities employ approximately 760,000 people and county councils employ around 250,000.
Women represent just over 80 per cent of the total employment figure for municipalities and county councils.
Local and regional self-government is an important element in the democratic system of Sweden.
Local and regional self-government is written into the Swedish Constitution (the Instrument of Government).
The right of municipalities and county councils to levy their own taxes among their citizens was established as long ago as in the local government ordinances of 1862.
Municipalities and county councils are also responsible for supplying welfare services to their citizens.
Most of the tasks of municipalities and county councils are regulated in special legislation (e.g. the Social Services Act and the Health and Medical Services Act).
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