Gothenburg's six-hour work day saved from axe

The Local Sweden
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Gothenburg's six-hour work day saved from axe
Care home staff in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

A trial of shorter days at a nursing home in Gothenburg that made global headlines – but was in danger of being scrapped ahead of schedule – has been saved at the eleventh hour.


The publicly funded retirement centre has been testing six-hour shifts since February 2015, with 80 nurses changing their schedules but receiving the same pay. Meanwhile as part of the two-year controlled trial, the same number of staff at a separate home are continuing with their usual hours.

But despite grabbing global headlines, the centre-right opposition party the Moderates had called for the pilot project to be wrapped up prematurely, arguing it was not sustainable in the long term.

After several long debates and much haggling in Gothenburg's council chamber, local politicians agreed late on Thursday to let the high-profile trial continue until the end of the year as planned.

"It feels good to be able to complete the project, so that we can analyze the conclusions. The full effects of the switch won't be apparent until after two years," Left Party councillor Daniel Bernmar told the regional Göteborgs-posten newspaper.

Early studies of the project at the Svartedalen care home have suggested a positive impact, with Bengt Lorenzon, the lead consultant contracted by Gothenburg City Council to analyze the data, telling The Local last month that his team could "very much see the benefits of the trial".

"Sick leave [at the test home] is half the average absenteeism rate in Gothenburg city...the nurses are happier and there is a better quality of care," he said.

But Deputy Mayor and Moderate party spokesperson Maria Ryden, who was one of the politicians behind the motion to quash it, had told The Local she felt it was "unfair" to continue the project.

"There won't be a chance it will be continued after the New Year because there won't be any money (...) We are talking about one retirement home but there are 62 others in Gothenburg and and 53,000 employees working for the city [council]," she said last month.

Across the country, a growing number of businesses and startups have gone public about their decision to test out six-hour work days in recent months, however the concept is a long way from being mainstream in Sweden, despite generating plenty of international headlines.

Employees in the Nordic nation are already much less likely to work long hours than those in most other countries. Only around one percent of staff work more than 50 hours a week, one of the lowest rates in the OECD, where 13 percent is the average.


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