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Swedish union takes swipe at US lifestyle

Published: 20 Jan 2014 16:36 GMT+01:00

The Swedish garden-party essential, a good game of kubb, takes place not on a suburban lawn in Sweden, but by the brushed cement poolside of an LA mansion in the new advert from Swedish trade union TCO, released on Monday.

"It's to make the Swedish Model more visible in a different way. People often know very little about it, which makes it harder for the unions to justify their own existence," said TCO spokeswoman Ana Esteban. "The unions are not simply there to back up salary insurance, we want to talk about a model that is very flexible and useful."

"The Swedish Model means that the two parties can talk about what is needed in that particular industry, and be supple, rather than have very rigid legislation that we don't think is good for the Swedish economy," Esteban told The Local.

In a bid to sing the praises of the Swedish Model, in which unions and employer organizations negotiate collective bargaining agreements, an American actor explains why he has chosen to live "like A Swede", after having tried but not found fulfillment studying kabbalah and living as a vegan. 

READ ALSO: Is the Swedish Model the fairest of them all? 

As well as kubb, and a rewritten rendition of a traditional Swedish drinking song explaining why there is no need to get the state involved in labour negotiations, the strapping actor showcases a host of employee benefits enjoyed by many Swedish workers.

He uses his healthcare stipend (friskvård) to employ a celebrity personal trainer and takes out paternal leave (pappaledighet). Donning a faux beard, he also engages in some role-play with a nurse to feel what it will be like to be old and creaky, yet rest assured that society will step in to help rather than having to splurge cash on a private elder care facility.

But why? the critical viewer may wonder.

The clip uploaded on Sunday offered an explanation.

"Do you know why Sweden is ranked as one of the best countries in the world? Like a Swede (...) explains how anyone in Sweden may have the same benefits as only the very richest in other countries," the text offered in the way of explanation.

READ ALSO: TCO explains why Swedish companies should employ more foreign-born staff

While the clip may garner a few giggles, a less than friendly criticism of the US underscores the video. For example, the advertisement pokes fun at Americans' lack of long holidays. The filmmakers used a tired-looking and skinny actor to off-set the hunky "Swede" as they compare six weeks holiday, Swedish style, to the more usual two weeks bestowed on employees in the US. 

Esteban said there was no intent to insult Americans.

"We chose the US because many Swedes look up to the US, and rightly so, it's a fantastic country... but it doesn't have all the same benefits as Sweden does," Esteban told The Local.

She also underlined that the UK faced similar work-life balance problems as the US. The union saw many cases of Swedes who had worked in London, but as soon as they had children moved home to Sweden because "the system there does not support working and having a family."

Ann Törnkvist (ann.tornkvist@thelocal.com)

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