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Swedes to give six-hour workday a go

Municipal staff in Gothenburg will act as guinea pigs in a proposed push for six-hour workdays with full pay, with hopes that it will cut down on sick leave, boost efficiency, and ultimately save Sweden money.

Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
Clocking in. File photo: Shutterstock
"We think it's time to give this a real shot in Sweden," Mats Pilhem, Left Party deputy mayor of Gothenburg, told The Local. 
 
He explained that the municipal council would use two different departments – a test group and a control group, in essence. Staff in one section will cut down to six-hour days, while their colleagues in a different section stick to the ordinary forty-hour week.  All employees will be given the same pay.
 
"We'll compare the two afterwards and see how they differ. We hope to get the staff members taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically after they've worked shorter days," he said.
 
Pilhem said he hoped the move would create more jobs, as he had seen evidence that longer shifts entailed less efficiency. In some sectors, such as elderly care, the problem was not staff shortages, he claimed, but people working inefficiently over longer shifts.
 
He added that a Gothenburg car factory had recently tested the six-hour method and the results were encouraging. 
 
The opposition in the western city has reacted strongly to the test run. 
 
Maria Rydén of the Moderates, who also sits on the city council, told the Metro newspaper that the proposal was a "dishonest and populist ploy" with elections just around the corner. She added that she didn't think such a move would have any impact on quality.
 
But Pilhem said the plan was nothing new. 
 
"We've worked a long time on this, we've not planned it to be an election thing," he said. "These people are always against shortening hours."
 
Various parts of Sweden have experimented with shorter working hours before, but the concept has yet to take off. 

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”

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