Sweden like Denmark and the Netherlands, has adopted a policy to improve work-life balance for its citizens. For example, flexible working time arrangements have been considered and sabbatical leave has been tested. The Swedish government has taken the initiative to reduce the work-life conflict experienced mostly by women, by promoting men’s participation in housework and the upbringing of children. Parental leave is structured so that it encourages men to stay at home more with their newborn babies, thus encouraging both parents to take care of their children. Moreover, the Swedish welfare system includes an extensive child-care system that guarantees a place in a public day-care facility for all children between the age of 2 and 6 years.
Regardless of these measures, there are still problems. There is strong gender segregation in public service employment (health, education, and childcare); women rather than men reduce their working hours after childbirth, and the long periods of leave taken (or reduced working hours) do not help female career progression. As a result, pay differences remain significant, and are not narrowing.
If you plan to do business in Sweden during the summer, it is important to remember that most of the Swedes take their vacations between June and August. The minimum vacation per year is five weeks. Swedes are also not available during the Christmas holidays at the end of the year or at Easter.
The official holidays can be divided into Christian and non-Christian. The main Christian holidays are Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost and All Saints. The non-Christian holidays are New Year’s Day, May Day (Valborg), National Day and Midsummer. Uniquely celebrated in Sweden is the holiday of Saint Lucia which is celebrated on December 13.
Normal working hours in Sweden are 40 hours a week with an upper limit of 48 hours. Obviously, there is no limit for managers who sometimes have to work at home. Due to the development of telecommunications, more and more Swedes are used to working from home. Always keep in mind, though, that after 5 pm most Swedish employees go home to take care of their families. Working overtime is neither valued nor seen as necessary in fact it can be seen as an indication of poor planning and time management.
Workdays are usually from 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Lunch breaks usually last approximately one hour and the most common time to have the break is between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
During the 20th century, at the price of the world’s highest tax burden, Sweden built up what is often called the world’s most generous general social welfare system, with such elements as virtually free (tax-financed) schools, child care, health care, pensions, elderly care, social services and various economic security systems. This welfare State, known in Sweden as the “home of the people,” was a unique experiment in social engineering that has attracted great attention among political scientists and politicians worldwide. Many of its features have been emulated in other countries.
In recent decades, as the country’s previous steady, high economic growth came to an end, the Swedish Welfare State has been under heavy pressure. Today, the country’s economic security systems are financially burdened and are struggling with serious structural problems. Without a doubt, Sweden has become “harder around the edges.” Yet the main features of the Swedish welfare system, with its publicly guaranteed and financed safety net for everyone in the country, so far remain intact.
The hospitals are managed by Central county, District county and Regional hospitals. If you need to see a doctor or dentist it is important to check that he/she has public insurance. All European citizens can access for free public hospitals in Sweden. In order to benefit from free assistance, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is compulsory. When you are travelling, make sure to keep all your receipts, prescriptions and bills in order that these outgoings can be refunded.
In case of a medical emergency, use the emergency telephone number “112” to contact the appropriate emergency service. In the case of non-emergencies, you can visit a local medical centre or clinic, called an “Akutmottagning” or “Vardcentral.” Patients should be prepared to present their passports.