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Sweden's leave of absence system helps workers launch their own business (bbc.com)
143 points by velik_m 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments





Since maternity and paternity leave are frequently more than 6 months long, employees temporarily leaving for a big chunk of the year is just a fact of doing business here.

Granting unpaid leave to go try your own thing for a while is, from the employer's perspective, not any different. Some people never come back, most people do. The same is true for parental leave (many quit their jobs towards the end of their leave, if they had already been thinking about it).

Even when they aren't required to grant it, larger Swedish companies will often give you unpaid leave if you just ask. The fear is that otherwise you will quit. Hiring is hard here, so it's better to have a promise of someone coming back in 6 months than a job opening that can take 12 months to fill.

Sweden has an enormous market of consultancies compared to the U.S. for filling these temporary gaps. Obviously consultants are expensive and not trained on your projects, so it's not the same as a long-time employee, but it gives options to "control the bleeding."


> The fear is that otherwise you will quit. Hiring is hard here, so it's better to have a promise of someone coming back in 6 months than a job opening that can take 12 months to fill.

This is what a strong economy actually looks like.

It's hard (in my experience) to get Americans to understand this, because our economy here has been so bad for so long, most people here have never experienced anything like this.


Exactly. Male real wages have been stagnant since 1973, and that's without considering the situation around health care, where costs have risen much faster than general inflation. Counting health care, male real wages have declined noticeably since 1973. Meanwhile, returns to capital have grown dramatically. This is precisely what you would expect in a weak economy, where the workers necessarily lack bargaining power. In a strong economy, the percentage of national income going to workers would increase, as it did from 1935 to 1973.

Additionally, in 1973, there was a good chance you had a partner who could stay at home to watch the kid(s). Now you have both people working whether you like it or not, because you're competing with two-income households for housing.

Of course, not trapping women in domestic servitude is a good thing, but making it (on average) necessary for two people to work to afford a home when before it took one is a bad thing.


>Of course, not trapping women in domestic servitude is a good thing

Alternative is 'trapping them' (horrible choice of words btw) into corporate servitude. Which of the two is better? Which of the two is better for children?


Which of the two is better?

trapping in corporate. Trapping in corporate grants economic independence.

Which means, depending on the family situation, it may be better for the children... it means the woman has the ability to run away if she needs to.

Not saying its a perfect system, or that it should be a binary choice (it shouldn't be), but of the binary choice, one is blatantly better.


"Domestic servitude" is a poor way to present homemaking, but calling its historical pull a trap for women isn't far off. Obviously anyone who's struggled in the business world understands joining the game is only liberating along a couple of dimensions (economic, mainly).

The choice should be there for men and women to work or rear. Applying that freedom appropriately is the individual's responsibility.


> "Domestic servitude" is a poor way to present homemaking

It is when you are absolutely economically dependent on the outside of the home work, from which you are functionally excluded, of a partner for survival, when even searching for an alternative in the same line is grounds for termination without support, and where the one on whom you are dependent has a legal right to use you sexually without consent (criminalization of marital rape in the US began in the mid-1970s after the mass entry of women into the workforce)? I think “domestic servitude” is an overly positive euphemistic description of the condition women were generally trapped in before their out-of-the-home work became normalized.


I'm absolutely not making a case that women weren't effectively forced into domestic servitude in the past (and, depending on a a range of factors, in the present). I'm also not making a recommendation that anyone be a full-time homemaker. Given the state of the world, that's a very risky path.

But.

There are women (and men) who would prefer to work in the home and they should be free to do so. It's demeaning to equate a person's effort in homemaking with servitude. There is not something inherently inferior about maintaining a home and it's only a perverse economic system rooted in traditional misogyny that tells us otherwise.

As I said initially, the choice should be there. The social and institutional compulsion obviously should not.


> It's demeaning to equate a person's effort in homemaking with servitude.

No one did that upthread. Someone compared the condition women were trapped in prior to the normalization of their choice to work in the general market as being trapped in domestic servitude. This is not equivalent to equating freely-chosen homemaking with domestic servitude.


I clearly interpreted CalRobert's comment differently than you did. To me, it read as a comparison between "domestic servitude" and working a job.

As I see it, he compares being trapped in domestic servitude (the problem before the economic transition since ~1973) with being forced to do work in the general market (the problem after.) He's not comparing two freely chosen activities, he's noting one undesirable compulsion was traded for another (less undesirable, but still undesirable and less recognized) compulsion.

Exactly. It's the lack of real choice. In 1950-whatever your chances of making it on your own, as a single mom, ESPECIALLY when the entire culture is built on the assumption of stay at home moms, were pretty slim. You didn't just move out, sign up at the local montessori, and go get your "pays roughly similar even if still lower" professional job, and go to the bank and get a mortgage, etc.

Corporate servitude also sucks but that's a result of nimby housing cartels (you're competing with two income households for homes).


I think your reading makes more sense than mine. Agreed!

> Of course, not trapping women in domestic servitude is a good thing

Any reason you used the term servitude which implies a negative connotation, when many women were happy with that arrangement? It also implies none of the women received positive utility from staying at home with the kids and it was always a chore, which seems a little ridiculous.

We should be embracing every opportunity for more personal involvement with our children and family, not calling it servitude. It does all families, past, present and future, a huge disservice.


If it's something either parent does because it's what they want, then it is indeed not servitude.

But in 1973, it fell almost exclusively to the female parent, whether it was what she wanted or not. Many women may well have been happy with that arrangement, but practically no men would have "received positive utility". And either there's something unique about the Y chromosome that makes it impossible for them to enjoy that, or a lot of women weren't so much "happy" as "accepting".

We should indeed embrace opportunities for more personal involvement in families -- for both parents. Generous leave is a big start on that. But "100% leave, as long as you're female" is not.


the term presumably is used because at that point it was not a choice. Many women may have been happy with it, but there was scant alternative for those who were not.

It depends on a lot on where you were, but there are places that literally fired women when they got married. https://www.irishcentral.com/news/how-things-have-changed-te...

This has changed, but it reveals a lot. It also might relate to why it's so hard to find teachers for the price government is accustomed to paying - if you were a well-educated woman in the 1950's you had far fewer options (aka bargaining power) than you do today, and teaching was likely to be one of the few options with a bit of prestige and mental stimulation available to you.

It's true that women weren't FORCED to not work, but to suggest that they didn't face a strong disadvantage is disingenuous. Hell, it's still a rampant problem - how many tech bros get off an interview and then say "ah but she's 32, she'll want to take maternity soon". This is a good reason for making maternity and paternity leave equal, incidentally...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/podcasts/the-daily/pregna...

Though for all that, my wife stays home with our kid by choice. She went back to work when our daughter was 6 months old, and after six months of barely seeing her outside of the weekends she just couldn't bear it (I didn't much like it either). The only reason we can do that is because I have a good paying job in tech making something over the 90th percentile of incomes in my country. I wish other people had that choice. Hell, I wish I had that choice. But few do.


I think we would all be happy to be financially independant with our families but reality is different. Every society is severely broken by patriarchal norms which is hurting everyone. Most of all women. Enabling domestic servitude (which is both negative and the appropriate term) by catering to utopian fantasies only is only enforcing these norms and directly crippling women.

I've always wondered how much of the lack of wage growth can be explained by financial institutions investing in other countries. If the actual growth happens somewhere else, and some of the profits make it back to the US economy, also growing it, overall wages wouldn't really be affected, would they?

The US is the world's largest recipient of foreign direct investment and maintains a substantial capital account surplus. Capital inflows finance our current account deficits.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/mapping-capital-flows-us-over-last-...


This is one of the most brilliant and succinct put statements I have read in a while. However, do you have any pointers to underpin your statement?


This is a weak economy if you're a laborer and not a capitalist. Overall, it's still been a VERY strong economy since '73. The US has been either first or second in GDP growth EVERY YEAR FOR 40 years! China has been killing it recently, but over the given time period, the US is still by far the best: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_growt...

A real weak economy would look like Japan, Ukraine, Russia, Zimbabwe, etc.

Life for the laborer has been under systemic attack since Reagan, but the US economy as a whole has been doing swimmingly.


> This is a weak economy if you're a laborer and not a capitalist.

Replace capitalist with monopolist and I'd agree.

How many capitalists make losses for 20 years and not only stay in their job, but actually become the world's richest person? Where would Uber be if they couldn't use VC money to undercut taxi companies, and subsidize hundreds of millions in losses. And let's not even get started on the issue of offshore tax avoidance, something your local hardware store will never have access to.


GDP is a very bad target to aim for.

Total compensation has almost doubled since 1970, adjusting for inflation.

Looking at wages alone is only half the picture.


You are thinking of average compensation. Most reasonable people avoid talking about average compensation, since income has concentrated into the hands of the top workers. The top 1% of Hollywood actors, sports athletes and Wall Street hedge fund traders make several million dollars a year, and therefore they grossly distort the average. Their income hides the reality. If we focus on median income, of all forms, total real compensation for men has declined since 1973.

>This is what a strong economy actually looks like.

Is it actually though? Couldn't it also be a sign of an aging population? Sweden's population is growing, but it's mostly due to immigration. Considering the type of immigration that's mostly happening it's not bringing in lots of skilled workers.


Partially anecdotal:

The problem with hiring is from what I've seen not due to ageing population. Instead, due to very protective employment regulation employers in Sweden are absurdly slow and picky when hiring. Resulting in a very large temp staffing sector. They are also surprisingly conservative in expectations.

Contrasting anecdotal rant:

In 2014-2018 I was trying to help a Swedish company get a tech dev project going. They needed to bring in about five experts. For years this project was delayed until it was no longer relevant, because they had a pointlessly limited view on who they needed to hire, at what cost and under which structure. They would not accept a 15% salary increase above their opinion of the norm, and neither a distributed project nor a collaborative partner network construct. This loss of opportunity was huge for them.

During the same time I was staffing, running, and completing two projects in Switzerland, total of 25ppl. No issues, quick handling, excellent outcome. The Swiss investors understood that it's ok to run a project distributed across five countries and pay an extra 20-50% if it's difficult to find good people locally in a given field. Skill and speed is more important than location, cost, surname, language[2], etc.

This is not the only such situation I've come across in Sweden. I work as an R&D consultant specialised in setting up and running distributed collaborative high risk tech projects. Despite being a native Swede it's easier for me to run projects in Switzerland than in Sweden. Kind of sad.

For your second point:

For skilled immigrants (stem university degree) the situation is quite good.

From what I've heard, 2nd-3rd generation immigrants and onward tend to outperform the "native" population. This may change in Sweden after the large influx of unskilled refugees in the last 20-30 years, vs the predominantly work based immigration of 1950-1980s.

Statistically [1]: Sweden has one of the highest gaps in unemployment between European and non-European unskilled immigrants. If you're uneducated you _really_ should migrate to somewhere else if you _ever_ want to get a job.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/api/rest_v1/page/graph/png/Immigrat...

2: as long as they know English well enough :)


It's like you need to grab Plato for a search and rescue mission to the cave.

>This is what a strong economy actually looks like.

No mention of wages and jobs.

In Electrical Engineering(US), its vicious the amount of competition trying to get me.

Vacation policy? Unpaid, but at 60$/hr, I just afford to take 3 weeks of vacation, but 2 weeks of holidays too.


> In Electrical Engineering(US), its vicious the amount of competition trying to get me.

When did that start? I left EE in about 2006 because I felt like all the employers were very demanding of specific skillsets and treated engineers like they were easily replaceable.


Congratulations on being in a high-demand field. It’s pretty great. But it’s definitely not the experience for most American workers.

Is the Swedish case the same even for non-high demand fields? I suppose by definition every job (irrespective of compensation or skill needed) would be a high demand field if it takes 12 months to fill; at which point I suggest that what Sweden has is a demographics problem, not a strong economy.

It's not a demographics problem from the point of view of the workers.

I think it depends on the company too. For tech companies especially in Stockholm and Malmö, It's really easy to hire developers. If it's a startup good luck getting unpaid leave during huge rushes as well as during industrisemester. So of course as always it depends.

However the thing I think that is more unique to Sweden and drives these kind of nice benefits is that it's really hard to get rid of an employee. Employees are protected so much with rules and regulations that even if you get let go you have a required three month grace period unless otherwise negotiated with the employee.

It's not uncommon I would say to see tech workers "fired" but then still on the payroll for an extra 2 months while they are arbetsbefriad (paid leave)

Pretty nice if you know how to game the system


I think the proper English word for this role is contractor rather than consultant.

Is it?

I thought that a contractor is usually someone who is self-employed, whereas consultants are employed by a consultancy.


It's confusing and depends on the industry. Sometimes they're used interchangeably. In some disciplines consultants literally just 'consult' and don't fill a role.

In the accounting world we have employees that we call 'contractors' but they aren't self-employed. Rather, they are employed by a specific accounting staffing agency that contracts with our firm to fill positions temporarily.

Sometimes contractors are employed by the company they are working with directly but the position isn't guaranteed to last before

Basically, like much of the English language, there isn't a hard rule. I imagine there are country, regional, and industry specific uses for the terms. There may have once been a hard distinction, but misuse of terms eventually permeates into local parlance, which gives way to a new accepted use of the term.


I'm an anonymous coward on here so I can give another perspective.

My employer struggles to find skilled people and when one guy on my team suddenly disappeared for 6 months it was definitely felt.

Before that I hadn't really grasped the idea yet. Even though I've lived in Sweden since I was a child. I just couldn't accept that you can duck out of your job for several months and then come back as if nothing happened.

I saw it as a sort of betrayal of your co-workers and duties.

And when your employer is already struggling, quietly, to find competent personnel, it really felt like a kick in the gut to lose one of the most competent resources in that team.

Of course that person came back and has always performed at a decent level.

Now I'm older and more mature, I have my own company, so I'm much more accepting of the privilege to take a break from my employer to develop my own business.

Unfortunately, and the article states this, there is an issue being in direct competition with your employer. Mine is a consultancy firm which means they do almost anything. They can purchase a solution from someone and re-sell it as their own. So it's very hard for me to start an IT business that does not compete with them.

It's a sword of damocles dangling over me right now, because I haven't revealed to my manager what I'm doing in my own free time yet. All I know for sure is that I haven't signed any contract preventing me from running my own business and there is a clause in the collective bargaining contract that states that I can't use any company resources, which is obvious.


To be fair, is this not at least partially the fault of the employer for not ensuring that they had adequate cover?

sure but what you’re effectively doing is making an employer hire more people than otherwise so they can have adequate cover. you may say this just the cost of doing business. But in the aggregate it results in X percent of companies that were previously neutral or making a profit into going out of business or being in the negative.

They need to have this anyway because they never know what might happen to that person. They could say tomorrow they have another job, or as my old boss used to say "got hit by a bus" and died. You'd have no recourse then, so you better have redundancy.

Of course, every job I've ever been in has been terrible about redundancy, and when people start leaving, usually it's the people with the most domain knowledge, and so you get a big gut punch right away, and then it snowballs as more work and responsibilities get put on other people and they end up leaving once they've had enough or found something better, and it just keeps increasing until you're basically totally screwed but hey, you're saving money by not having to pay all these employees anymore, and that's all your stockholders are going to see for the first year until your company completely falls apart.


No, you still need MORE redundancy. If 10 units is enough redundancy to deal with a failure rate of X, if X now increases then you will need more than 10 units for redundancy. The reasons don't matter at all. More chance of failure means more redundancy required.

I was being sarcastic near the end. That seems to be what the higher ups think. I definitely think there needs to be lots of redundancy, as someone who has been the recipient of a bunch of dumped on extra responsibility with little knowledge transfer as people have left.

Not every small business has that luxury.

Actually you might be in trouble and the longer you keep it secret the more trouble you will be in.

In Sweden you have a duty to be loyal to your employer, which means you are not allowed to plan and/or start a competing business during your employment. Your employer can sue you for violating your loyalty to your employer.

However this also means that you have to be able to define what your employers area of business is. Either you don't know it or they don't have one. Get their area of business defined.


>Get their area of business defined.

This is the hard part for me because they do anything from hosting private clouds to buying a digital signage solution and re-selling it as their own.

My business is just consulting and developing. So far my job has been to develop a digital signage solution. Which would be in direct competition with them but I'm not left many options.

They even have a developer department. So the very nature of my employer makes it almost impossible for me to start anything in IT.


If you are in IT in Sweden you might want legal advice to check this out. Anything that you build outside of work might be owned by your employer by default.

I thought that's for patentable stuff. Regular software should be owned by the creator if its created outside of work.

The employer in question rolled out a new contract a while back. Different from the one I had signed many years ago when I first started.

The new contract did have a section that stated essentially that anything an employee produces, on or off business hours, in or out of business locations, is owned by the employer.

I flat out refused to sign this and there was apparently no requirement for me to sign it. It was just presented to me digitally because a process had been started in their systems and signing that contract was part of the process.

If I'm forced to sign it I will request a new contract without that section in it. Because even before I had my own business I was writing open source code for open source projects that we use and rely on. So it's impossible for my employer to own that code.


Law (1949:345) "rätten till arbetstagares uppfinningar"

It essentially specifies that the employer owns, but must pay a token cost for, "inventions" by an employee outside of his normal employment field and duties.

When you get hired you should _always_ make sure this is stricken by your contract.

> If I'm forced to sign it I will request a new contract without that section in it. Because even before I had my own business I was writing open source code for open source projects that we use and rely on. So it's impossible for my employer to own that code.

You need to _include_ a section that effectively negates 1949:345. Otherwise that law applies if nothing else is stated in the contract.


I did this and the alternative was me quitting the job completely. I don't think that would have been much better for the company.

It would because it means that the company has a guarantee of freed up resources to hire somebody else without having to wait the six months or so.

Meanwhile, in the US and Canada, you are forced to sign clauses that gives your employer full ownership of anything you invent ever while employed and you have to ask your ~parents~ employer if you could please do something else on the side. Good for Sweden, these feodal rules are dragging everyone down.

When I first learned about this type of contract I couldn’t even believe the concept. How can anybody think it’s ok that a company can claim and kind of ownership over things an employee does in his free time? I have signed up for 40 hours a week and not for being fully owned by the company.

What happens if you work another job and invent things there? Do the companies own each other’s stuff?


There is often a clause which warrants that you have no conflicting obligations, though if you make a habit of signing these there likely is a conflict. The real solution is to severely limit these terms to reasonable scope. Some are written to be absurdly over-broad.

I like to frame it in terms of reputation risk to the company. If they own the contents of people's creative hobbies outside of work then I am happy to put "Copyright $COMPANY" in big letters on my amateur porn website... Surprisingly few companies have thought about it that way.


So would you assume you can work 40 hr and trade secrets from your employer as a side hustle, just because it's not happening within the work time?

You can do work on the side without disclosing your employers trade secrets, I would hope. There is nothing mysterious about yet another CRUD web application. Besides, confidentiality is covered separately and an NDA can stand on its own.

I suspect employers love restricting your right to have a side hustle so that they absolutely totally own you. If you have no other means of income besides your job they can lean on you pretty hard and there isn't much you can do about it if you like having a roof over your head.


You're presumably already bound to confidentiality.

If someone wants to trade their employer's secrets, there are MUCH easier ways to do so than creating their own side business. This looks like a straw-man argument.

This is not about trade secrets.

Are those contract clauses limited to trade secrets?

They often are not limited. In essence the company claims it owns all your creative output while you are employed.

> and you have to ask your ~~parents~~ employer if you could please do something else on the side

What does this mean?


It's meant to be struck out but HN doesn't do strikeout text. I meant that just as when you were in school and needed a hall pass or note from your parents to be absent, once you're an adult you need a formal authorization from your employer to work on anything else than your job during your employment even if it's on your own time.

Surely this is down to the individual employer? Some companies try to add clauses like this to contracts here in the UK but thankfully they're generally not enforceable.

Speaking as an employer, what my employees get up to in their own time is their business as long as they get their work done when they're supposed to.


> Surely this is down to the individual employer?

In theory, yes, In practice, nearly every single US employer has this somewhere in their contract automatically by default -- the only way a company doesn't, is if someone explicitly got it removed.

Also, in much of the US, the clause is enforceable, so companies have basically no incentive to remove it.


Count your blessings, every US and Canadian work contract (hell, even some contracting/consulting agreements) I have ever seen or signed had a no-compete and a clause prohibiting you from doing anything else than working for your employer.

Not all companies do this- mine owns anything that is made during work time or using work resources.

However I did sign a forced arbitration clause which is equally BS.


Actually in Sweden you have this also. Most people just have it removed from the contract. In the US it is the same. or you get a version that instead just says they own anything done during company time or using employer resources.

Not in California, which at least partially explains why SV is not somewhere else.

>you are forced to sign clauses that gives your employer full ownership of anything you invent ever while employed

You know, you don't have to sign those.

I always cross out those and tell them to send it back when its fixed. Only my first job I was afraid to do this.


My (Swedish) company tried this. I got it crossed out after I pointed out that that meant they also had legal responsibility for anything I produce out of work hours.

This is a great idea, honestly, for the economy at large. If more people start more companies, we're probably all better off even if they don't all survive.

If an American political party were TRULY pro-business and pro-entrepreneur, they'd get behind policies like this. They'd also support divorcing health care from employment, because holy COW how many folks would start a new venture IF ONLY they could afford private market insurance?


Milton Friedman was also a staunch supporter of social safety nets as well as free markets. Anyone that supports free markets and Friedman’s ideas should try to understand why he supported them together ardently. I consider myself both a supporter of actually free markets along with very generous safety nets for the non-winners of such an aggressive business climate. Otherwise, we quickly approach a literal meat grinder of humans and loss of human potential is unfortunate no matter what the economic system.

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/23/business/23scene.html


But Negative Income Tax has actually been tried and it didn't produce quite the results that people were hoping for.

The fact neither political party is for divorcing healthcare from employment goes to show how corrupted they are by the industry. This is such a slam dunk no brainer for improving not on the health care industry, but the quality of everyone's lives, the only reasonable explanation is corruption.

This is exactly what Bernie Sanders is doing. He is independent but was running as a Democrat in the 2016 election primary. https://berniesanders.com/issues/medicare-for-all/

>If more people start more companies, we're probably all better off even if they don't all survive.

Not if the policy causes more inefficiencies itself. If people can, at will, take 6 months off, then all companies need to plan for more redundancy. This is obviously inefficient. So it ends up being a question of whether the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Considering that Sweden isn't exactly topping the charts in economic growth or wealth or GDP per capita or disposable income, I'm not sure whether this system is good in the long run.


Efficiency is important, but if all the benefits of the efficiencies accrue to the rich, we're not "all better off".

Plus, GDP per capita doesn't capture some very important aspects of of what makes people live better lives, eg job security, not being afraid of health issues, leisure time, etc.


how many folks would start a new venture IF ONLY they could afford private market insurance?

Probably not many? The US seems to dominate in start up compared to Canada or Europe (free healthcare).


>For the last two decades, full-time workers with permanent jobs have had the right to take a six-month leave of absence to launch a company (or alternatively, to study or to look after a relative).

These are unpaid leaves, right?

I think it's a great idea, particularly for a business of a certain size. I know many of my peers leave their jobs because they are looking for an extended break. If they didn't have to leave, it could be a win for both employees and employers.


These are unpaid leaves, right?

Yes.


In Belgium we have a "career break". 6 months, only condition is to be employed in the company for one year if I recall correctly. Employer can not refuse.

You also get paid basic allocations similar to unemployment, unlike this system.

You only get it once though.


What's wrong with the threat of starvation and homelessness as a motivator for innovation? Real innovators don't sleep, never take a day off, and work 26 hours a day. In America we know how to motivate people: threaten their livelihood by having virtually no safety net, no holidays, no health insurance, and no hope to go along with all of that. That's what drives real innovators, unlike these wussy European ones who can't even start a business without assurance that they'll have a job to go back to if it fails. Unnecessary crutches. We don't even have assurance a doctor will save your life if you get hit by a car on your way to work and they want reassurances about their job. Clearly their system is inferior. Our innovators work through pain. Repetitive stress injuries from typing and psychotic episodes from lack of sleep only make them stronger. This is what it takes to be number one in surveillance, ads, killing, and other shit no decent person wants to excel in. </s>

I think this is brilliant, but I’m interested to hear criticisms or arguments against it.

Overall I think it's a good thing, but one problem is that systems like these are really starting to create two tiers of workers, as is discussed in the end of the article. Generally one has to have a permanent contract for programs like these (e.g. in Finland you can go to study for two years and get paid a nice fraction of your pay from the unemployment fund).

In theory this shouldn't be much of a problem because all jobs should be on permanent basis by default and fixed-term contracts should be only for very special purposes. In practice this is not enforced and especially for lower paying jobs (and some even higher educated fields, such as teachers or nurses) its quite common not to get permanent contracts at all.

Because of this, there's almost a new social class of permanent contract workers who have great benefits and programs, and beneath them a constantly growing underclass on temp contracts, shitty working conditions and little benefits. It's sort of absurd that some paper pusher can get paid for doing any studies they wish more than a cleaner or store clerk gets paid while working.

The systems were largely created before the neoliberal era started in Nordic countries in the 90's or so when employer protection was very strong across the board. But as the protection has crumbled for the "underclass", the system starts to at times look something like the olden privileges of the higher castes.


Essentially the same in Sweden. If you are well off you can enjoy many different systems and laws, from paid for private schools to secure employment and good benefits. While those young and worse off are facing cutbacks and insecurity. I really think it is a perversion of the welfare state at this point. Which can be hard to fully grasp for those that haven't experienced it.

That's the general argument against big government and even big business. It creates inefficiency because somebody else is spending the money that is removed from the current situation.

No. It's an argument for stronger protection of labor against exploitation, often also called efficiency.

I think so too, I would love to have entrepreneur leave. Having quite my job to start a business before, the main thought in my head is that 6 months is not anywhere near long enough for the vast majority of business ideas to get off the ground, let alone succeed. In order to have any chance of success in 6 months, you would need to have launched your product before starting the 6 month period. You’d want to have secured financing, get any partners and/or employees in place, finish all legal paperwork, set up a payment system, build the product and begin marketing, all before you leave your day job. Any one of those things can easily eat more than 6 months. My startup was a 2 person software service -- just about the easiest thing you can do business wise -- and it took a year after quitting my job before we could even take money, and 2 years before we made enough money to pay our operational costs.

> My startup was a 2 person software service -- just about the easiest thing you can do business wise

This gave me a chuckle. To most people who aren't on HN a software service, no matter the size, is a major business undertaking.

I have a friend who started a pilates studio. She loves pilates and the startup costs are minimal - a few thousand dollars total mostly for a small inventory of yoga pants and athleisure gear to sell. She quit her finance job to get it off the ground thinking it would take at least a year. It took her six weeks to have enough membership subscriptions to make her business profitable. She's a brilliant businesswoman and was working the front desk at a pilates studio and teaching a few classes. After three months she was understandably very bored. Her company still hadn't found a replacement for her so she hired a college kid to sit at the front desk and went right back to work.

There are a lot of "analog" small businesses people could get off the ground in 6 months I just think they aren't the sort we're used to hearing about here because HN is so tech focused.


FWIW, the popular alternative to software I had in my mind is starting a restaurant. It's pretty hard to do that in 6 months and usually costs a lot more up front than software.

You have a good point. My wife started teaching piano lessons after I quit my job, and her studio was at full capacity before my business was making any money. She's been at it for a while, but like your friend she's also experiencing a loss of motivation to continue doing it.

You're right that single person & analog face-to-face services are very easy businesses to start. I have to wonder if those are the kind that Sweden is actually encouraging with their leave program. These kinds of businesses don't scale at all, there's a growth wall that most people never get over, even when they're among the few that survive the motivation problem. This is especially true when the business is initially launched as a personal service and needs very little planning or investment.


Well, the biggest argument against it will be a need to find and train a temporary replacement for the person. For many positions finding and training alone may take longer than that.

And then what do you do with the replacement once the original guy is back?

Overall though, I would agree that benefits overweight potential problems.


I imagine the situation would be quite similar to how we handle maternity/paternity leave here in Canada, and it's rarely a problem.

Once its an accepted pattern, there are fewer surprises, and most people are understanding.


Exactly. It was briefly mentioned in the article too. Sweden already has a mature maternity/paternity system in place, and companies handle those just fine (in most cases, if they're doing any kind of planning and thinking). Thus they can handle these kinds of leaves as well - it's minor when you compare to the number of maternity/paternity leaves, there's much more of the latter. And (as it was mentioned in the article), it is possible to say 'no' to the leave if the employee's position is crucial (presumably there are definitions for what the actually means). Or hold it off for some time. Unlike with maternity/paternity leaves.

I wish there was something like this in my country as well.


The employeer should have a "replacement" ready anyway since people might also quit. Preparing for the pssobility of this or eg. paternity leave is a good anti-employee lock-in meassure for skilled workers.

A possible argument against the system is that there are many temp working contracts to fill in for the fulltimers on leave.


Some people can choose to work 50% instead of a 100% leave, so there are ways to solve it.

Even assuming there's a de minimis exemption for small businesses, one unintended consequence could be increasing employment costs which would negatively effect business formation by disproportionately favoring established entities that could afford the luxury.

The article doesn't have details, really— but as the leave is unpaid I gather most of the costs would come in the form of any production delays or HR/admin. This makes me curious as to whether there are grants or subsidies from the government in support of the program.

I wonder how such a policy isn't abused. Do you need to provide some kind of proof for your entrepreneurship? What's to stop me from just taking the occasional 6-month sabbatical to start a travel blog and travel the world? I'd love to be able to save up for 6 months of leave knowing I have a guaranteed job to come back to.

Also, what sort of employer benefits are provided during these periods? I'm assuming Sweden has socialized medicine so employers aren't on the hook, but that'd be a major reason why it couldn't work in the US.


I would have to guess that there's probably some small amount of abuse...but aside from that, i think it is the fact that it is unpaid leave. I think if the leave were paid, there would be tons more abuse. To be sure, there's still risk in trying to go off on your own. Imagine that you hate your current job, have this chance, then take the chance...and then you fail spectacularly...Would you really feel good about going back to your crappy job? Maybe because i'm thinking through the mind of a sad American (sad because we lack many social safety nets such as this program)...but returning to a shitty job after failing big time doesn't sound like the nicest of feelings. Still, as much as America thinks that we're entrepreneurial, i sure wish we had this system.

I remember some big tech company had sabaticals available for everyone, but cancelled it because most people were just using them to train for a different job, so quit straight after.

Can anyone tell me what this is called in Swedish ?

Tjänstledighet



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