Swedish word of the day: karensdag

Today's word stirs up a lot of debate in Sweden...

Swedish word of the day: karensdag
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

There is no snappy translation for karensdag, but it means 'qualifying day' or 'waiting day' in certain contexts. You will most likely hear it used in reference to sick pay in Sweden, when it refers to the first day of sickness when no benefit is paid. It also refers to waiting periods in other kinds of insurance or benefits policies; the period of time during which no payouts are made.

Note: it's not 'Karin's' or 'Karen's' day! 

The concept of the karensdag may come as a surprise given Sweden's reputation for having a robust welfare state.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it has effectively been scrapped, with the government covering the cost of sick pay from Day 1 in an attempt to deter symptomatic people from coming into work and spreading the coronavirus among colleagues – though even then, sick workers only receive around 80 percent of their usual pay while ill.

The Left Party has long been saying the waiting day should be removed altogether, a call which has been renewed in 2020.

The arguments against the karensdag are that sick workers are encouraged to come into the workplace and spread germs and illnesses, and that working while sick could also mean a longer recovery time which has negative consequences for businesses as well as individuals.

Another criticism is that there is no karensdag when applying for child sickness benefit or 'VAB', the money paid to parents who need to miss work due to their child's illness which is paid from the first day. 

But supporters of the current system often claim that having sick benefits paid from day one could encourage benefit fraud.

Officially, the karensdag was replaced in 2019 by a karensavdrag (roughly 'qualifying deduction'). This meant the system was changed so that in each period of sickness, your sick pay is subject to a deduction equivalent to 20 percent of your average weekly sick pay, instead of missing out on the day's pay for the first day of sickness. This was intended to make things fairer for shift workers or others working irregular hours, so their sick pay wouldn't be affected by falling sick on a day when you work longer or shorter hours than average. 

For workers on fixed-hour weeks, there was no change in practice to the amount you receive, so most people still refer to the karensdag.


Slopad karensdag ska hindra smitta

Scrapping the waiting day for sickness benefit is intended to prevent infection

Karensdagen innebär att du inte får sjuklön under din första sjukdag

The qualifying day means that you don't get sick pay on your first day of sickness

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Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.