• Sweden's news in English
 

'Six-hour work day will hurt Sweden'

Published: 15 Apr 2014 08:20 GMT+02:00

Gothenburg recently announced a political experiment. Some public employees will transition towards a six-hour work day, but keep their full time wages. The left-of-centre majority hopes to prove that fewer working hours is a viable option for the near future.

Working less is a popular idea also on the national level. The Greens want shorter days plus seven extra days off work a year for parents with small children. And they want the state to pay benefits to people who want to take a sabbatical. The Left Party also wants the six hour work day, which it included in the party's recent ten-year plan.

Working less, earning as much. It sounds tempting. But political action to reduce working time risks, in my view, increasing unemployment, funding shortfalls for the welfare state, and increased inequality.

The people who say yay say this: If a person cuts their hours, it creates surplus work that an unemployed person can take on. But I've found that little research gives support for this hypothesis. 

In the study “The myth of worksharing”, Arie Kepteyn, Adriaan Kalwij and Ashghar Zaidi argue that fewer working hours does nothing to employment rates. Based on Swedish data, Tor Jacobson and Henry Ohlsson have found that there is “no long-term relation between hours per worker and employment”.

Jobs aren't commodities that you can just share with someone else. At present, many Swedish employers struggle to find competent staff, for example in the manufacturing industry where a lack of technical know-how among job seekers has slowed down production.

If Swedish engineers cut their hours, production would slump even further.

That would put the brakes on other parts of the industry, for example subcontractors but also the hospitality industry that feeds those engineers for example. 

But what about jobs that require few or no special skills?

One of the key problems on the Swedish employment market is that few entry-level positions exist. Merely five percent of the jobs in Sweden require no special knowledge, which is the lowest share among the EU countries. The few entry level positions could, at least in theory, be subject to job-sharing.

And reduced hours has done little to reduce wages. In fact, as people stay on the same salary, the average cost of labour per hour goes up. This does not benefit the unemployed, who would be seen as even more expensive to would-be bosses.

Then there is the simple notion, held forth by people who love this idea, that we can be as effective in six hours... I am far from convinced. As a general rule of thumb, if we work less, we produce less.

The National Institute of Economic Research, an independent wing of the finance ministry, found that reducing hours quite simply reduced how we use capital and how much we produce.

Put simply, if we work 25 percent less, our standard of living would fall by a quarter too.. As will funding for the welfare state.

Maybe an individual family would feel fine with reducing how much they spend on food, gadgets, toys, trips etc, but the welfare sector? How many people in Sweden would accept fewer (or worse) schools, hospitals, and home for the elderly?

I also think we should be talking not of decreasing hours worked, but the opposite.  

Income inequality in Sweden shows up not just in people's salaries, but is evident in how many hours they work, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) has found in a tally. The quarter of Swedes with the highest incomes work some 64 percent more hours than the quarter with the lowest incomes.

Ironing out the difference in hours worked would already today slash 70 percent off the income gap.

So how would reducing working hours affect equality? The self-employed already set their own working hours. Partners in firms and those aiming for high-achieving careers also often choose to work more hours than their employers’ demand of them.

The people who work more, and earn more, don't listen listen to political dictates. We do not, after all, live in a planned economy. 

Work-hour reducers instead take aim at the badly paid public sector which employs a lot of women. It will, I argue, entrench inequalities rather than sandpaper them down. 

Cutting work hours brings with it more problems than its proponents wish to acknowledge. The same parties that wish to fight inequality are proposing a policy which would take Sweden in the opposite direction. 

Nima Sanandaji is a regular op-ed contributor to The Local.
His latest book is called “Renaissance for Reforms”, co-authored with Stefan Fölster.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Bones of missing Swede confirmed in US town
Larkspur Landing, in California, where Elisabeth Martinsson was last seen. Photo: Pedro Xing. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bones of missing Swede confirmed in US town

US coroners have officially identified the skeletal remains of a 21-year-old Swedish student who went missing in California over three decades ago and have relaunched a murder investigation. READ  

Stockholm transport boss resigns over theft
The chief executive of Stockholm's public transport group SL, Anders Lindström, has resigned. Photo: Annika af Klercker/Svenska Dagbladet

Stockholm transport boss resigns over theft

The head of Stockholm's public transport group, SL, has stepped down a fortnight after he was fined by a Hong Kong court for stealing an expensive designer credit card holder in an airport store. READ  

Swedish amber rock was Second World War bomb
The amber rock was in fact a large piece of trotyl, pictured. Photo: Daniel Grohmann

Swedish amber rock was Second World War bomb

A two-kilo rock handed to a museum in southern Sweden by a fisherman who thought it was a piece of amber, has turned out to be a huge Second World War bomb. READ  

Sweden ladies red-faced over infectious 'clap' tag
The Swedish women's national football team. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Sweden ladies red-faced over infectious 'clap' tag

Swedish is a peculiar language, and translating expressions into English can be tricky, as most expats know. The women's national football team got a taste of this on Tuesday, when their international slogan inadvertently encouraged fans to spread gonorrhoea around Sweden. READ  

Does Sweden mark down foreigners' children?
A Swedish paper has compared pupils' national test scores to their individual grades. Photo: Annette Friberg/SCANPIX

Does Sweden mark down foreigners' children?

Children in Sweden with foreign-born parents appear to get lower scores in national exams than from their own class teachers, research by a major Swedish daily newspaper suggests. READ  

Sweden has fewest new prisoners in six decades
Fewer people are being sent to prison in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Persson/SCANPIX

Sweden has fewest new prisoners in six decades

Fewer people were sent to prison in Sweden in 2014 than in any other year since the 1950s, according to new figures from Sweden’s Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården). READ  

Asylum seekers face ‘years’ without Swedish
An SFI class in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Asylum seekers face ‘years’ without Swedish

Sweden’s commitment to give free Swedish classes to all asylum seekers is failing, according to the Red Cross, which says that too many are being forced to wait “several years” before they can attend lessons. READ  

Russia exercise parallels Sweden war simulation
A Russian military long range bomber aircraft. Photo: TT

Russia exercise parallels Sweden war simulation

Russian military forces have launched an unexpected huge military exercise, which is taking place as Sweden continues to host thousands of troops from nine countries for a similar war games simulation. READ  

Opinion
'Swedes need to ditch cakes at coffee time'
A very Swedish coffee break. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Swedes need to ditch cakes at coffee time'

Grabbing a cake and a coffee at least once a day is one of Sweden's best loved traditions and even has a special name: 'fika'. But Swedish medical student Haroon Bayani is calling on Swedish nationals and foreigners alike to stop reaching for sweet treats in the workplace. READ  

Pirate Bay founder to appeal domain ruling
The Swedish state owns two Pirate Bay domain names after a court ruling. Photo: Marc Femenia/SCANPIX

Pirate Bay founder to appeal domain ruling

One of the Swedish Pirate Bay founders will appeal a court ruling to let the state seize two domains used by the controversial file-sharing site, his lawyer has told a Swedish daily. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Avicii confirms royal wedding DJ gig
Gallery
Property of the week: Lugnvik, Östersund
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Eurovision winner Måns Zelmerlöw through the years
Gallery
People-watching: May 22nd-23rd
Blog updates

24 May

 (Joel Sherwood) »

"Real American men don’t watch Eurovision. New video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQk5dUhGt-w ..." READ »

 

22 May

Editor’s blog, May 22nd (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, The hot topic in Europe this week is whether or not the UK will..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
What it's like to be a student in Malmö
National
Why are Sweden's beaches among the worst in Europe?
Sponsored Article
Kristin Amparo: 'Swedes are afraid to be proud'
National
VIDEO: Can you get your tongue around Sweden's word for 'nurse'?
Sponsored Article
'No one tells expats about unemployment benefits'
National
How two million Swedes are designing a 'house of clicks'
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Five facts you need to know about Sweden's Eurovision entry
National
Why do one in three Swedes want to join Nato?
Features
What to do in Stockholm this summer
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th
National
How Sweden and Saudi Arabia got back on speaking term after row
Gallery
Property of the week: Västra hamnen, Malmö
Sponsored Article
'There is no such thing as Swedish values'
National
Why is support for the Sweden Democrats at a record high?
Sponsored Article
ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world
Gallery
People-watching: May 15th - 17th
National
VIDEO: Swedish man's roar scares off charging bear
National
'Gang conflict' linked to latest Gothenburg attack
National
RECIPE: How to make Panna cotta with cloudberry jam
Sponsored Article
'Educated immigrants get stuck in limbo in Sweden'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Your May sun snaps
National
Sweden backs migrant sharing plan
National
Swedish boozing on the rise
National
Why Sweden's deputy PM was forced to apologize for Auschwitz analogy
National
End of the road for Julian Assange's arrest appeal?
Features
Booked to go to one of Sweden's sizzling music festivals yet?
National
Meet the Swedish boy who used to be a girl
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why is obesity ballooning in Sweden?
National
VIDEO: The bizarre Swedish nurses song that's gone viral
National
Ecuador stray dog Arthur in Swedish charity race
National
UK expert: 'Sweden's current military state is alarming'
National
Elfdalian: a real language spoken in central Sweden in 2015
National
Is King's love for house tracks behind new military music?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hjortnäs, Leksand
National
Sex-crazed grouse terrorizes Swedes
National
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King Carl XVI turns 69
National
Dolphins spotted in Baltic
Gallery
People-watching: May 1st-3rd
Sponsored Article
'Never waste a good crisis'
National
Road trippers flock to 'The Bridge'
National
Why are Swedish supermarkets banning paracetamol pills?
Gallery
People watching: April 29th
National
"In many ways Swedes and Americans are kindred spirits"
Politics
Did you know four Swedish party leaders are women?
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sex?
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,313
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se