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Sweden reins in sick leave payouts

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15:52 CEST+02:00
Fewer Swedes are claiming sick leave benefits than at any point since 1982, according to new figures from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan).

In January this year, the agency paid benefits to some 112,000 people who had spent at least the previous 30 days on sick leave. In December 2003 this figure was more than twice as high.

The sharp drop is reflected across all counties, both sexes and among both native Swedes and people born outside the country.

"The number of cases of people out sick for over 30 days is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s. It is our view that sick leave cases will settle at historically low levels in 2010," said the agency's director-general, Adriana Lender, in a statement.

The number of people on sickness-related early retirement schemes has also plummeted, with 35,000 people granted access to early retirement benefits in the last twelve months, the lowest level since the 1970s.

In total, 520,000 people in Sweden receive early retirement benefits, corresponding to one in every ten people between the ages of 19 and 64.

In the twelve months leading up to April 2009 the Social Insurance Agency paid out benefits amounting to an an average of 35.1 work days per person aged 19 to 64. In 2003 the corresponding figure soared to a record 43 work days per person.

The agency has introduced tighter checks on benefit recipients in recent years to combat a situation in which Sweden's sick leave statistics had strayed way beyond the European average.

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