Overtime worked by Swedish labourers reached record levels in January as the wheels of commerce churn ever faster.
“It’s expected that people devote increasing amounts of their own time without being recognised,” consultant Jonas Hasselhuhn told the TT news agency.
Over the last year, 800,000 people, or one in five workers, worked some form of overtime during a regular working week, the equivalent of 5 million overtime hours, according to new data from Statistics Sweden (SCB).
Current levels of overtime have returned to the situation last seen prior to the financial crisis when the Swedish economy was in its last period of rapid growth.
Converted into full-time positions, the amount of overtime currently worked by Swedes translates into 125,000 jobs.
Companies who got burned in the financial crisis have been cautious about hiring new workers, leaving existing staff to bear the brunt of the burden as demand rises.
In addition, the rapid pace of economic growth in Sweden in the last year has made it harder for companies to find the right people.
The amount of overtime worked has increased most in the manufacturing, construction, and transportation sectors, where extra hours have risen between 30 and 40 percent.
While more overtime is generally considered a positive sign for companies, working too much can cause health problems for certain groups.
“Forced overtime is the worst. The job is probably unpleasant as well,” Torbjörn Åkerstedt, a professor at the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, told TT.
Nevertheless, he doesn’t see the recent increase in working hours as a major problem.
“Most often the healthiest groups work overtime,” he said.
But certain groups, those who work up around 70 hours a week, as well as workers juggling the pressures of parenting small children, can experience health problems if they work too much.