4th Jan 2016
Swedes looking forward to a six-hour workday just got some bad news: the costs outweigh the benefits.
That’s according to the preliminary results of a two-year experiment carried out in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the home of Volvo. To reduce the 8-hour days at the 68-nurse Svartedalen old people’s home, the city had to hire 17 extra staff at a cost of 12 million kronor ($2.2 million).
The study showed that employees felt healthier, which reduced sick-leave absence, and that patient care improved, but the city won’t push ahead to make the plan permanent.
“It’s associated with higher costs, absolutely,” said Daniel Bernmar, a local left-wing politician responsible for running the municipality’s elderly care. “It’s far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable time frame.”
The Gothenburg experiment is just the latest in a series of shorter working day trials carried out in Sweden, a country that prides itself on its generous welfare state. The trial has been closely watched globally, with labor activists touting progressive Sweden as a role model in shortening working hours.
And while historical data shows that the length of average working days has fallen in Sweden over the past century, there are currently no plans to establish six-hour working days at a national level.
Still, Bernmar says he’d like to see more studies into whether an abbreviated working day could also result in long-term gains for society as a whole. One argument is that it could allow people employed in labor-intensive professions to extend their working life.
“I personally believe in shorter working hours as a long-term solution,” he said. “The richer we become, the more we need to take advantage of that wealth in other ways than through a newer car or higher consumption.”