Every once in a while I get an email from the Swedish American Heritage Council. Or is it the American Swedish Heritage Council? Or the Swedish American Historical Society? Anyway, as much as I hate to admit it (at least, to my mom), I typically hit the delete button when one of these messages shows up in my inbox. A couple weeks ago, however, when I received the latest installment, I was immediately drawn to these paragraphs about vacation time in Sweden:
The individual Swedish worker enjoys benefits, by law or by union contract, that include five weeks of paid holiday, paid time off for illness or child-care, 16 months of paid parental leave, regulated working hours, overtime compensation and pension benefits.
Vacations and holidays are covered by legislation. All employees in Sweden are entitled to a minimum five-week paid annual leave, after the first year of employment. Normally, vacations are taken so employees can have four consecutive weeks off. Traditionally, vacations have been taken in July, which means that many companies all but close down operations in that month. However, in recent years, because of the much stronger international business environment, full operations continue through the summer, while employees take vacations at other times of year.
Vacation time can be accumulated up to one week per year for a five-year period. This means an employee could be entitled to a maximum of ten weeks vacation. Sweden also has twelve public holidays per year.
All I can say is, it must be nice.
This entry is more for your readers than for you, as you are privy to this information. Julian and I recently returned from our honeymoon in Stockholm, and we are currently looking for ways to relocate. No, really! We’re learning Swedish via downloaded cds to our ipods, and we are hoping a university is soon seeking an English-speaking film prof for a year or more. Vacation time notwithstanding, what enchanted us (aside from the universal healthcare, the free to inexpensive childcare, and the fact that Sweden has not been part of a war in eons) was the emphasis placed on families and time spent together. Shops closed early, working hours were certainly not as long as they are here, and most appealing, a family could live comfortably on one person’s salary. Especially since the middle class has literally been erased here in NYC, the prospect of not being in the minority in a place like Sweden appeals to us. Oh, yeah, and if we do end up there, we’ll be spending our luxuriously long vacations with you and Sara, droning on and on about how great 12 weeks off can feel!
It sure sounds nice. I can’t quite fathom how an employer pays for all that. Perhaps there’s no such thing as single business tax or payroll tax or unemployment insurance or liability insurance or minimum wage or property tax or federal tax or sales tax or employee health care or any of the other charges we as small business owners have to pay here in Michigan. I have 9 employees (all part time) who enjoy a schedule that suits their needs, a generous discount on any product we carry, a decent pay rate and a modest allowance annually to cover health insurance and related expenses. They get whatever time off they ask for, 1 paid week of vacation a year and as a collective have worked in the job for 154 years and are the parents to 18 children. I value these wonderful people but I don’t know what else I can possibly provide and still stay in business.
Camille, the employer doesn’t pay for all that.The government does. And by government, I mean taxpayers. Everyone there pays a much larger percentage of their income to the government than we do here. Our taxes are a drop in the bucket compared to theirs. But, Sweden is a socialist country. You know, redistribution of wealth and all that. I don’t know enough to debate the relative merits of our economic systems, though. I just thought a long vacation sounded nice.
According to our friends who live in Malmo, Sweden, they pay as much as 65% of their income in taxes. Still, your precentage is relative to your earnings, so there seems to be less tax burden on the middle class.
Hello Karl and friends, I am Swedish and can confirm what you have heard of the Swedish tax and welfare system. We do pay a lot of tax and for that we get a lot of support from the goverment (which as a result is quite large). Sweden is by many aspects an extreme country, not only the high tax rate (only Denmark has higher) but to a lot of weird stuff like 40% of all households consist of only one person. I agree with Michael Moore saying “you’ve got the perfect mix of socialism and commersalism” but would like to add that ambitious people are punished by a deeply rooted jealousy. Beeing one of the amitious ones I am looking for opportunities to cross the pond as my ancestors did.
Ha! I just read about Jante’s Law in a book called The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.
“You shouldn’t believe you are something. You should’t think you are better than us“… Janteloven by Aksel Sandemose (excerpt)