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Sick benefits to be curtailed

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11:48 CET+01:00
Sweden's social insurance must be treated more like an ordinary insurance policy and people must be encouraged to get back to work, according to a new study. Having analysed the system for two years Anna Hedborg yesterday presented her proposal for a new look social insurance.

Sweden has more people out of work due to illness than any other country in the world, on a per capita basis. And Hedborg, a former director general of the Swedish Social Insurance Administration, was tasked with finding a way to reduce the State's rising sick leave costs.

If the new proposals are implemented sickness benefits will be stopped after one year. Those who are not in good enough health to return to work after a year, but who are judged to be capable of working in the long term, will instead be shifted over to the unemployment insurance system.

Early retirement will still be an option for those judged incapable of ever returning to work.

Hedborg also suggests that companies should monitor the reasons for their employees' sick leave and work towards avoiding long-term illnesses.

The social insurance system should also become more self-financing than is currently the case.

"An independent insurance sends a clear signal to all involved," said Hedborg in a press release.

The woman behind the study is critical of Swedish attitudes towards sick leave.

"Everybody is careless when it comes to days off sick. Doctors, the Social Insurance Administration and our employment policies all waste them," Hedborg told Aftonbladet.

Because people can be off sick for an indefinite period there is a "feeling that sick leave is something that can used while waiting for one thing or another," said Hedborg.

Social insurance minister Cristina Husmark Pehrsson welcomed the report.

"Many of the suggestions put forward in the report are already under discussion in the department," she said.

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