Government supported culture in Sweden should, according to the national cultural policy objectives, promote “international and intercultural exchange and cooperation”, as well as guarantee that “everyone should be able to participate in cultural life”. It is today the established norm to recognize Sweden as a multicultural society. There are also funding schemes dealing with the national minorities and minority languages, mainly providing grants for projects in the fields of language and literature, and periodicals with cultural content.
In January 2000, Sweden ratified the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The officially recognized national minorities are the indigenous Sami people, the Swedish Finns, the Tornedalians, the Roma and the Jews. All of the national minorities have national cultural institutions. Examples are the Sami Theatre, the Sami Museum Ajtte, the Tornedalen Theatre, the Roma Cultural Centre in Malmö and the Jewish Museum. The indigenous Sami people are a national minority population with approximately 20,000 members in Sweden. There are also populations of Sami in Finland, Norway and northwestern Russia. The Swedish Sami Parliament (Sametinget) has been allocated an earmarked government budget for cultural activities, research and social development projects. Nordic cooperation exists both between the Sami parliaments and between the respective nation-state governments on Sami related issues.
Aside from these legally recognized national minorities, Sweden has a number of other cultural and linguistic communities, as the result of immigration in the last sixty years. 19 percent of the population was born in another country. Many of these originate in other Nordic countries, the largest group being those born in Finland. Other major groups are people with a background in the former Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Chile and Somalia. Many immigrant groups are organized in associations that receive government grants. In 2008, the Muslim Study Association Ibn Rushd gained the status of a study association recognized by the government, giving it access to funding for adult education and cultural activities. Today, it is one of ten such recognized national study associations.
According to a report published by the Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis in 2015, the percentage of employees with a foreign background had remained at a constant level for a decade, i.e. 13.4 percent in 2012, which was lower than the corresponding percentage of the population (20.1 percent in 2012). Underrepresentation had thus increased with the increasing percentage of the population who are of foreign background. The greater diversity in the population was thus not reflected in staff composition in the cultural sector. In leading positions, the percentage of persons born outside of Sweden was even lower than among employees in general. The agency’s assessment was that the cultural sector in 2015 was further from the target of reflecting the population than it had been ten years earlier. Today, people born outside of the country make up an even larger part of the population than in 2015.
For the present coalition government, consisting of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, cultural diversity and working against racism have been prioritized areas in cultural policy. All recent national budgets have included measures intended to support diversity and inclusion, including increased support for civil society activities with this focus, and increased priority to cultural diversity and in policies directed at arts and heritage institutions, with special funding provided for, for example, the National Museum of History, and the National Museums of World Culture.
The National Museums of World Culture is a government agency composed of four museums specifically charged with making a broader cultural heritage available to the people. The museums of world culture exhibit ethnographical and archaeological collections, from, among other places, Egypt, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, China, North America and Peru. The alleged tendency for these museums to focus more on current issues in Sweden, than on the historical contexts of their collections, has been criticized by the political opposition and media as constituting a polarization of the role of museums (Harding 2021).