Swedish sick leave falling

Sweden is notorious for its high rate of sick leave, but figures released on Friday show the problem easing.

Swedes aged between 16 and 64 claimed they could not work due to ill health for an average of 39.9 days in 2006, according to figures from the Swedish Social Insurance Administration (Försäkringskassan), which controls state payments to the sick.

The figure for 2005 was 41.3 days per year. The year-on-year reduction was the largest since the mid-1990s and corresponds to around 8 million working days a year.

Försäkringskassan includes all forms of sick leave in the statistics, from people taking short periods of time off for minor complaints to the more than half a million Swedes in health-related early retirement.

“Developments in both sick pay and health-related early retirement are going in the right direction,” said Curt Malmborg, director general of Försäkringskassan.

Malmborg put some of the changes down to improvements on the labour market.

“Försäkringskassan is working with the state employment office to support more people in returning to work. If we are to reach the goal of 37 days, it’s important that the figure keeps falling,” he said.