Erlander, Tage (Sweden)
Tage Erlander served as Sweden’s prime minister and party leader of the Social Democratic Party from 1946–69. After 23 years in office he was the longest serving prime minister in the western world. He was the chief architect of Sweden’s welfare state, introducing higher old-age benefits, rent subsidies, and child allowances. He also extended compulsory education to 9 years.
Erlander was born on 13 June 1901, the son of a teacher. He attended the University of Lund, graduating in political science and economics in 1928. Erlander was politically active throughout his student years. He began his career as an editor for the encyclopaedia Svensk Uppslagsbok from 1928 to 1938. In 1930 he joined the Social Democratic Labour Party and was elected to the Lund City Council. In 1932 he entered parliament as Social Democratic representative for the Malmö-Lund area. Erlander held several ministerial positions prior to 1946 and became an expert on education and social welfare. He served on key commissions of inquiry, including one on unemployment at the time of the recession. He was appointed Minister without Portfolio in 1944 and Minister for Education in 1945.
Following Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson’s death in 1946, Erlander was elected leader of the Social Democratic Party and prime minister. Erlander’s domestic policy called for extensions of the welfare state and the public sector, financed by taxation and underpinned by co-operation with both sides of industry. He coined the expression ‘the strong society’ arguing that as people’s living standards improve, their demands on the society increase. In 1955 he introduced a national health service, and in 1959, a state pension scheme. During the cold war Erlander was sympathetic to the west, but preserved formal Swedish neutrality. In 1949 Denmark and Norway joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), while Sweden kept firmly to its non-alliance policy. Erlander supported the United Nation’s financial aid to the developing countries. In 1960 Sweden joined EFTA (European Free Trade Area), but stayed out of EEC (European Economic Community).
After his retirement, Erlander wrote his memoirs. He died in 21 June 1985.