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Swedish tax collectors organized by apes
Photo: Kevin Walsh

Swedish tax collectors organized by apes

Published: 23 Jul 2007 18:10 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jul 2007 18:10 GMT+02:00

A reorganization of workers at the Swedish Tax Authority is partly shaped on studies of apes, according to a leaked internal report. Employees are not flattered by the comparison.

The tax authority is currently undergoing its largest reorganization for many years. One of the foundations of the restructuring plan is a report which says that studies of apes show that people work best in groups of 150.

The reorganization was announced earlier in the summer. Work is being moved from small towns to larger towns and cities. Around 1,350 people are affected by the move. Economies of scale are a large part of the reason for the reorganization, but the authority has placed an upper limit of 150 employees per office, according to a report seen by news agency TT. The figure is justified using biological studies.

"The number 150 returns again and again when discussing the size of a group which has some kind of social commonality. Evolutionary biologists have seen that primates live in social groups of varying sizes," the report says. A comparison of the size of human brains to those of various other apes allows scientists to calculate the best group size for humans to work in.

"Based on this formula we have concluded that the optimum (or largest possible) group of people is 147.8."

The military, the Hutterite religious group and hunter-gatherer societies are also examples in which groups have tended to comprise around 150 people.

Employees who have spoken to news agency TT said they "seriously questioned" whether it was serious to compare them to apes. They also said it gave rise to scepticism over the basis of other elements of the reorganization, under which 1,000 people are moving workplace.

A list will be published in late August of the offices earmarked for closure. No spokespeople for the tax authority were available for immediate comment on Monday.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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