To the west of Sweden lies Norway. I read an interesting bit of news about the land of Santa Claus. Of the workforce in this country of 4.5 million people, fully 1/3 are receiving some sort of state sick leave or disability benefits. That figure blows my mind. While a good number of these are women on maternity leave (Norway is undergoing somewhat of a population boom), that is still a lot of people getting injured on the job or else gaming the system. Things are definitely far from bad there, however. Salaries are very high and Norway is the most expensive country in Europe. Unemployment is a paltry 2.5%, which economists say is a natural level anyway. Compare that to the 16% in the U.S. (The 9% figure given in the media is way too low since it does not count those who have given up looking for work, nor does it count the more than 3 million incarcerated in prisons.)
Gaming the system is a popular game in Scandinavia. I spoke with a fellow a few summers ago who said it goes on all the time in Sweden and this figure from Norway indicates it is rampant there as well. Mariette learned of a man who broke his little finger and took a month’s sick leave because he was unable to change diapers at his preschool job and figured it was unfair to the other teachers that he would be unable to do the dirty work so he took a month off.
In sharp contrast are the uproars that occur when taxpayer kronor are misspent. On the news tonight were stories about a theater director who used taxpayer money to run a theater company for retarded people. Huge flap for some reason. Then there is the leader of the left wing party here, newly chosen by his party. Apparently he has two domiciles and was using taxpayer money to pay the rent on one of them. He is now under extreme pressure from all sides. If Swedes could see what goes on in American politics they would not believe it. Because the taxes are high here, Swedes really get their knickers in a twist when someone misappropriates funds. They seem to be more engaged in their politics than in the U.S., which seems to be more of a shouting match. Elections in Sweden are publicly financed. Everyone of voting age votes. They make it easy to vote here. In the U.S., elections are held on work days instead of weekends so many people cannot get off to vote.
Going to be sunny through the weekend at least, so all is good here.