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16:50 CEST+02:00
Sweden's National Labour Market Board (AMS) has just divvied up 12,000 job posts labelled a "free year" - a kind of paid sabbatical that also places unemployed or disadvantaged people in jobs that otherwise would be unavailable.

And government agencies where people can qualify for such a sabbatical are seeing a flood of applications for Swedes who want a year away from the office.

AMS makes its list according to population and employment rates. The city of Stockholm will offer 2,590 sabbaticals. Ingela Söderman at the board's Stockholm office has already seen one thousand applications cross her desk but "many, many more" people have asked her about the possibility of taking a year off, she told Dagens Nyheter.

SvD reported just 450 applications but at a rate of 10 to 15 in the last week alone.

The procedure is not, however, as simple as putting any unemployed person into the job of a city worker. Parliament and AMS encourage employers to select someone who has been unemployed for at least two years, is an immigrant or is hindered from working full-time in some other way.

"But an employer can still say no to a certain substitute," Söderman pointed out.

Specific rules are to be thrashed out in mid-November.

The aim is to try to prevent long-term sick leave and put to work some of Sweden's 5.8 percent unemployed. No, wait. We mean just five percent unemployed. OK, it depends who you ask.

Dagens Industri published new figures in which AMS declared unemployment down to 224,000 people in September. But Statistics Sweden disagreed, saying that its figure for jobless had gone up in the same period, to 257,000.

Work minister Hans Karlsson told Dagens Industri "something isn't right. The difference is too large." He's asked both agencies to take another look at the numbers.

Karlsson spoke this week to DN as well, about a new proposal to deal with employers' costs for employees on long-term sick leave. Under the new suggestion handed by Karlsson to Parliament, employers would save a whopping 0.24 percent - but some smaller companies will pay more.

Employers pay salary for the first two weeks of an employee's illness and then pay 15 percent of the national insurance company's sick pay, unless they contribute to rehabilitation or make it possible for an employee to work part-time during a long illness.

But bosses don't like the implication that they are at fault for employee illnesses. Karlsson told DN that employers will work harder to prevent employee sickness if they faced a threat of higher costs.

Dodi Axelson

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri

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