Fewer on sick leave – but for longer

The rumour that Sweden has been in the midst of a sick-leave epidemic since the mid-nineties is false, according to an analysis presented on Monday by the National Institute for Working Life.

“From autumn 1997 the number of days taken off work for sickness went up significantly, but it was the length of sick leave which increased, not the number of people on sick leave,” said researcher and project leader Tor Larsson.

The Institute blames the increasing length of sick leave on the collapse of the so-called ‘adaptation group’ system.

“That system, with local adjustment and transfer jobs, was dismantled during the 90s. The result was ‘eternal’ sickness benefit-funded absence periods,” said Tor Larsson.

“A contributing factor is that these day’s there’s space for people to work with simpler tasks.”

Larsson is leading a project within the framework of the government’s research into how to reduce illness in the public sector.

The private sector’s sick leave performance was under the spotlight on Monday too, with the release of a 2005 ‘Health index’ from insurance company Folksam.

It found that the average time taken off for sickness among employees of companies listed on the stock exchange was 5.2% of normal working nours. Among women the average was 6.9%.

But again, long term sick leave was a major factor, accounting for 57.5% of all time off sick.

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TT/The Local