Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Swedish Work Ethic?

The Local is reporting that "Swedish employees feign illness to stay home from work for an average of 7.62 days per year. Only in India did more people admit to skipping work without good cause."

Now this statistic reveals a lot of things. No one would ever confuse Sweden with India in many other areas, but in this respect they are the same. I don't know diddly squat about India but I can attest to the fact that in Sweden it is true. I have never seen people call in sick so much in my life. In the USA, one only calls in sick if one cannot literally get out of bed.

Is there some reason for this?

In my experience Swedes love three things more than anything else: singing, taking time off work, and of course, raw herring.

In Sweden the taxes are so high (on average more than twice what we pay in the States) and the benefits are so generous that people have to call in sick a certain number of days or else they are literally working for free. And if you really do get sick, you might as well stay home for a week because (mindbogglingly) YOU DON'T GET SICK PAY THE FIRST DAY OFF so why the fuck would you come back on the second day?

Yes. Incredible. After the first day of sickness you get 80% of your total salary for up to two weeks with no questions asked. After that you need a doctor's note. This is the national law. Since Swedes value social security and time off more than money, the system works (I mean stays home sick) pretty well. In some sectors absenteeism is so rampant it is typical for 25% of the work force not to be there on any given day.

This is all very strange to an American where we are basically always competing for our jobs. I think we even have a difficult time differentiating a person from his or her job description. In the USA if you call in sick more than a couple times a year, it's very likely to cost you a promotion, raise, or very possibly your job.

No matter what people say... coworkers and managers know when you're faking illness. And coworkers must pick up the slack when you are home sick. I mean, who ever gets sick on vacation, right?


Here it is common to call in sick WHILE ON VACATION so the days go towards sick leave and more vacation can be taken later. It is not uncommon in Sweden to take the whole month of July off and two weeks in the Winter. For the smaller weekend holidays they use their sick days. Try that one in the States.

I don't know about people in India, but Swedes are not lazy people. However I feel they tend to exaggerate how hard and long they work. Most of them would find the working conditions in the States to he inhumane. And as I become more and more Swedified, I am beginning to agree with them. Swedes normally like and are even fascinated by the States, even though though they find the rampant capitalism, insane foreign policy, and pockets of poverty in the States bewildering.

So Swedes play the wekfare system to their own advantage.

India... what do you have to say for yourself?


Anonymous said...

Well another thing I would like to know in relation to this is how many holidays do Swedes have? I mean you know, company sanctioned holidays where everyone gets the day off. Cause in the US there's what, maybe 7 holidays max. And I know other countries have more than we do. (England and their "bank holidays" etc)

I actually took a day off this past week without really being sick...it's not even something I normally do and I felt pretty uncomfortable about faking it.
- Marky

Sloth said...

Swedes have about 12 "bank holiday" type things going on every year. If one falls on a Thursday a lot of people call in sick on the Friday.

I don't know if I mentioned this but a lot of Swedes have a really good work ethic. I would say that the best 30% of them make up for the worst 30% and they never complain about it even though they are not compensated. The Swedes are people who really care about those less able to handle the work.

Justin said...

i love you.
that is all

Anonymous said...

Dear oh dear another person whineing on about so-called scandanavian fecklessness. I work for an American company and the amount of 'visibility' but really doing diddly-squat that goes on is staggering.

Americans may spend more time at work but in terms of, for example, manufacturing productivity taking into account productivity rate and product quality, scandanavians are way ahead of their anglo-saxon bretheren.

Moreover, a measure of a society's wealth is not just its business productivity but also the degree of well-being, happiness and social cohesion - which is considerably higher in scanadanavia than in the US. And lastly we don't have the yawning gaps between rich and poor that exist in many areas of the USA.

Boring though it, sometimes, given the choice I'd any day rather be in the social democratic, high-tax paradise that is the Nordic area than in the neo-con sink or swim quasi-theaocracy that the US has become.

Having said this there are many commendable things about the US, innovation, entertainment and music and literature. Furthermore, people have always been welcoming and open when I've been to the states.

All I plead for is a little more nuanced view of what being scandinavia is about.


Anonymous said...

i have cousins in sweden who, like most critics of america, like to inform me of their better quality of life. i personally get tired of it.
its easy to judge when your not in the drivers seat. they criticize all our foreign policy, our health care, our vacation policys. sometimes i just want to say, shut the hell up, and quit coming here to use our education system, quit listening to our music, reading our books, watching our movies, all your tax payer supported sickleave/vacation time. and dont even get me started about foriegn policy, ask norway what they thought of them during wwII.
anyway, i love em to death, never been there, but hope to someday. but you know what? i wish theyd shut up and enjoy their neighbors money in the supposed utopia of scandinavia.


Cherlyn said...

Helpful blog! Yes, finally have someone stated the truth about Swedish work ethics. Personally, my best friend is Swedish American, she prefer stay in USA rather and go back to Swden. Besides, it always easy to critize others than self-examine oneself.

**Whenever I travel around world, there always have Swedish vocationing in the same place instead working back home.

1) London- Young (20 something) girl skipped the work days in Stockholm attended a ROCK concert in UK. She want me to call her 'non-working' Ann. Swedish love Jazz and Rock more than American. They had a rock group called "ABBA" right!

2) Paris - Middle aged (40 something) Swedish gentelman, he told me, please do not amire their country's social system. They are not the happiest people on this plant. In fact, Human natual is 'Greddy', Swedish not satify what they have at this moment, always request more... more...!!
Many young people were born into current social system, they did not felt any better than us much. Saddly, they have to work hard but
have to pay very high income taxes.(50% plus). They are asking themselves - Why need to work long hours? Take a vacation see the World instead!!

They also complaining that they have to take turn vatcationing (Husbanc and Wife.) Besides, Sweden have many difficulities on new immegation and guest worker issues at this moment in time.

**Similar to USA - It was almost impossible finding people do the small house fixing work, Swedish have to learn how taking care their own living spaces ( house, farm, yard...), which means - middle class was suffering, Rich and poor gap still exsited in their society.

3) Tailand - the number of people dead in 2005 Tsunami, Swedish were the highest percentage among the dead toll. Their Prime Minister have to encourge Swedish working harder and avoid the laziness. It was a small evidence shown how much they rather vacationing in any remont and better weather resort on earth than stay working in their NORIC country. Are they happy? NOT REALLY! They have tons of problem just like us.

4)On the street in NYC and SF,LA
you can find lots of Swedish touring around all attractions.
They work hard? As the blog said, they just called in sick and hopped a plane to USA enjoy their life in New World on cheaper expenses.

Yes, American have many issues need to improve, but we are work hard and getting better each day!


Be Confident! Be Positive!

American is land of brave with frontier spirit. We just need to use Sweden as reference, and create our own unique path for future generation. :)

Anonymous said...

In California we have better weather. We win, Sweden loses. By California government employee standards, the Swedes work too hard for what they get. Low after tax income and bad weather.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way about critics of US. They do comparasion not understanding that US is a leading superpower with largest, most developed industries. They set pace for the rest of the world. Sweden is just a remote, small, 5-mil ppl country. I personally admire sweden, but to compare US and Sweden impossible, because they are in different weight categories and pursue different goals.