Gothenburg (Sweden) (AFP) - Robert Nilsson, a 25-year-old mechanic in Sweden's second city Gothenburg, may be the harbinger of a future where people work less and still enjoy a high standard of living. He gets out of bed at the same time as everyone else, but instead of rushing to work, he takes it easy, goes for a jog, enjoys his breakfast, and doesn't arrive at his Toyota workshop until noon, only to punch out again at 6:00 pm.Swedes test a future of less work, more play (Yahoo! News)
"My friends hate me. Most of them think because I work six hours, I shouldn't be paid for eight," Nilsson said, talking while fitting part of a rear window onto a Toyota Prius with swift, expert moves.
Sweden often stuns first-time visitors with its laid-back prosperity, making foreigners wonder how it is possible to have both lots of money and lots of leisure.
Part of the answer, according to economists, is a productive and well-educated workforce that adapts to new technologies quicker than most. Exactly how much –- or how little –- Swedes work compared with other nations is a somewhat open question.
"We have a 40-hour work week, but also we have a little more absence than many people and we start work late in life because we study longer," said Malin Sahlen, an analyst at Timbro, a libertarian Stockholm-based think tank. In 2012, the average Swede worked a total of 1,621 hours, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is more than the Netherlands with 1,381 hours, but less than Britain with 1,654 hours or the United States with 1,790 hours – and way below Chile's 2,029 and Mexico's 2,226 hours.
"We could work more, that's a fact," said Sahlen.
But far from looking to increase time spent at work, some in Sweden are out to prove that less is more and that cutting hours can boost productivity.
In an international productivity ranking by the Conference Board, a non-profit business research organisation, Sweden was already placed close to the top, coming 11th out of 61 countries. The United States was third, the Netherlands number five, and Britain number 13, whereas Chile and Mexico were both in the bottom third.
Left-wing councillor Pilhem says the concept has already proven its merits -- at mechanic Nilsson's workplace, Toyota. Toyota's Gothenburg branch introduced the six-hour day in 2002 to make its facilities more efficient by having two shifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, instead of a single, longer one. Nilsson confirms that in his experience a six-hour day -- paid as much as eight -- is more efficient because it requires fewer breaks.
"Every time you have a break, it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get back to work, because you have to see where you were when you left off," he said.
That efficiency is reflected in the salary, as the Toyota workshop pays technicians like Nilsson 29,700 Swedish kronor (3,300 euro, $4,510) a month, well above the 25,100 kronor (2,790 euro, $3,810) national average for workers in the private sector.
"It was a huge success straight away," said Toyota service centre manager Elisabeth Jonsson. "We saw the results, and everything was working for the staff, for the company, for the customers, so I don't think we ever had any discussion about putting an end to it."
Clearly, laziness will turn Sweden into an impoverished, hellish dystopia. Oh, wait, that's the U.S. I'm describing.
Here's a Reddit page on the article. From that page:
I used to work salary at 30 hrs a week. They told me I needed to go to 40 and get a corresponding pay increase. I did not want to but they made me.
Getting in at 9am and leaving at 3pm left me so much free time that working 30 hours a week felt like a hobby. I had more time outside of work during the day than at work. Now my butt is stuck in a chair 40 hours a week still doing 30 hours a week worth of work.
Though instead of adding just 2 hours to the work day, it added more like 4.
Extra Rush hour driving time 45 mins each way instead of 15- 1 hour extra.
Necessary Lunch Break- 1 hour extra
2 hours extra at the office- 2 hrs
So, even though I got a corresponding 33% increase in pay (from 6 hrs a day to 8 hrs a day), the time it is costing me increased by 61% (from 6.5 hrs to 10.5 hrs).
So technically, by earning more I got a pay cut.
Despite my top line salary going up 33%, my earnings per hour devoted to work dropped by 17%.
Definitely not worth it.