I think tech companies will lead the way because of the competitive nature hunting for talent. Hopefully other industries will follow. Maybe California as state will lead the way in the US?
Annual leave by country.
i agrée it doesn’t have to be that way. and i agree it’s not a natural law.
what we need is for people among is to articulate alternatives. and for us to be open minded and willing to take some risks to get toward a better dynamic.
The problem is much more complex though, being happy puts no pressure to change things and leads to stale/weak societies/companies; for some reason we humans need some form of pressure to give our best... Of course, it's difficult to motivate oneself when you see that upper management turned into parasites with sociopathic tendencies, ruling you like you were animals without brain, not even hiding their intent, and giving you as little money as they can get away with even during times of exponential expansion of their profitability.
Although the few people that do work get a lot done due to having no meetings or interruptions. There were days in the summer where there were 3 of us in the office, out of 200 in the department. Bliss!
Companies are forced to ensure that their business works without key personnel for weeks at a time. It forces the company to really think about what situations are emergencies where you have to disturb key personnel on their vacation, and which ones you can actually handle anyway.
In contrast in the US, a common office-politics anti-pattern is that individuals make themselves indispensable to the business, as a form of employment protection. This is ultimately bad for the company, because people quit, people change jobs, and then the business is threatened every time such an individual quits.
When every employee is gone for weeks at a time every year, it gives the company opportunity to identify weak spots like this and work around them. And this pays off whenever key personnel leaves their job, for whatever reason.
I sure hope companies operating in U.S. adopt this behavior more and more. It always seems like in the U.S. we work harder and not necessarily smarter; certainly not healthier. I'm envious of the health-related foundations that other countries at least try to establish for their citizens. I'm tired of chasing the dollar, and wish to only pursue happiness. </sigh>
It works for me, but for each case where it worked I have another 5 where it was so and so and probably 10 where it was bad for the employee. This is because people tend to work longer hours, lose connection with the team (they are not in the office at the same time), it is harder to find someone when you need them because they work different hours that change a lot. Flexible working has advantages, but it also has disadvantages and trust is not part of the equation most of the time, presence, interactivity and coordination, human connections that are created face to face, these are much more important.
Let's assume that the US did have "better business results" and let's also assume that that is the result of worse working conditions. Why then are the workers, working in worse conditions, not benefiting from it directly?
Seems like, if that were true, the US is working average workers harder so that the ultra-wealthy can get even wealthier. Does that benefit society at large?
PS - I'd like to link this, called "The Nordic Model" discusses a lot of good (and bad) about that part of the world.
But for the bottom 10%, which in the U.S. largely consists of people who do not work, U.S. incomes are a third lower.
Finland pays $4,033, and the US $9,892 per capita (2016) for healthcare according to OECD figures. Since 2016 healthcare costs in the US have continued to increase faster than the rate of inflation.
The income figures don't include out-of-pocket healthcare costs, but those are relatively small in both countries: about $1,100 per person per year in the U.S. and it looks like $800-900 per person in Finland. (Which by the way lines up nicely with your figures above, applying the fact that 20% of expenditures in Finland are out of pocket, versus about 11% in the U.S.)
Note that the data linked above is from the "mid-2000s" while we are using healthcare expenditures from 2019. A fairer comparison with more updated data is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disposable_household_and_per_c.... Here, the U.S. median household income is almost 30% higher in 2016, or $7,740 per year. The difference in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for a three-person household reduces that to about $7,000 per year.
The difference is useless in the U.S. as its eaten away but healthcare, college costs, and several other kind of expenses...
Not to mention the quality of life, infrastructure, etc those extra 20% get you (even if they weren't eaten away) is way worse...
As to “quality of life”—that’s subjective. If I wanted to live in a 900 square foot house without air conditioning, like the average Finn, I’d move back to Bangladesh.
Not sure where you see the "higher salaries making that up in just a few year", since ex-students are saddled with debt for decades after graduation, and tons of young people can't find decent jobs. Low unemployment doesn't mean "enough paying jobs".
>As to “quality of life”—that’s subjective.
Well, not really.
>If I wanted to live in a 900 square foot house without air conditioning, like the average Finn, I’d move back to Bangladesh.
Well, if you mainly have Bangladesh experience to compare to, it's no wonder why America looks like such a wonderland to you.
For the average American it would be a huge upgrade to live "like the average Finn", even if they don't have the larger (shoddily built, average American houses are the worst I've seen in the west, and I'm not even getting into trailer parks and ready-mades) house.
Some people are calling that the "Iron Man" principal. If we can funnel enough money into the hands of billionaires, they will invent the things to solve all the world's problems. The real world is not a comic book.
The Scandinavian countries focus on leveling the playing field for everyone. It allows the less privileged to build a good life, but it also hinders the most ambitious ones. Whereas USA is happy to focus on the extremes, allowing places like Silicon Valley to flourish.
We can argue endlessly whichever is better for the society, but professionals often choose the place to live based on what is best for them, not what political model some place runs on.
Because wealth is concentrated at the top... That's the whole problem. Society gets poorer while the ultra-wealthy continue to accumulate wealth.
> It allows the less privileged to build a good life, but it also hinders the most ambitious ones.
Good..? So your complaint is that Nordic countries try to make give everyone a good standard of living rather than creating poverty so a few more millionaires can become billionaires? That argument doesn't make any sense to me. I don't even see where you're coming from.
> We can argue endlessly whichever is better for the society, but professionals often choose the place to live based on what is best for them, not what political model some place runs on.
A lot of professionals aren't ultra-wealthy though. They're the ones working longer hours in the US for similar pay relative to most of Europe. They're being exploited harder and seeing nothing as a result except their proportionate spending power diminish further as their healthcare costs continue to outpace their wages.
That's putting words into my mouth. I'm not complaining, merely observing. You're free to want more socialism, nobody is stopping you. I'm not saying one system is better than the other, they all have their own merits.
USA attracts top talent with top salaries, these are the people who are prepared to work hard and expect to be compensated well for that. They understand it's a sacrifice and they're willing to make it. Working willingly hard for a high compensation is not what I'd describe as exploitation.
Such a person in a Nordic country is working hard yet not compensated well for it. I don't see that as a better outcome for them and neither do they - that's why they emigrate to the USA. It's hardly relevant for building their own lives that there's some poor people living elsewhere in the USA.
I don't think you understand how US salaries compare to European ones, it's not even close.
Much slower than the pie increases. In fact slices (salaries) in the US have been almost stagnant since the 70s, while the "pie" got 10x the size...
Actually the most important good, a house, is much more expensive to buy/rent than in the 60s/70s.
There were times when a middle class family with one working member could afford a house and send the kid to college without huge debt - something near impossible now even with 2 working members.
As for goods, those are hardly a compensation, if people work crazy hours, with stagnant pay, and get less share of _their_ society's wealth (their current society's, not compared to 20, 30 or 1000 years ago, which is what matters. We don't compare ourselves with medieval serfs or cavemen to see if we're doing OK, and we don't pat ourselves in the back in 2019 if we live in a trailer park because we have electricity and some rich person in 1800 wouldn't).
So, yeah, thanks to cheap foreign manufacturing one can have more stuff (just not the important stuff, like house and healthcare and education and better job conditions).
Also goods, e.g. electronics, media, communication, food, are of a higher quality than they were in the 70s -- a substantial qualitative difference that is hard to measure and compare over time.
Because there are a lot of people with servant mentality there to cater to their whims...
Edit: not anecdotal. I personally know 3 execs from Scandinavian countries who tell me this is why they moved here. Also health care. They travel back to EU for routine stuff, but when they need elective procedures or advanced treatments you just cannot get those back in the EU.
Which advanced procedures aren't available in the EU? By the way, you can find private clinics in most EU countries if you don't want to use public health providers.
My own brother got his ear pinned back when he was a teenager because he was being bullied about it at school. Cost nothing and happened within a couple of months of GP appointment.
And obviously being a highly developed western country you can find private clinics for just about anything you want.
I have my own experience with this, I was/am a heroin addict and it took 12 months to get into any treatment at all. And A&E wait times are increasing year on year, either this winter or next there is going to be a crisis. Already we’ve come close.
I still maintain that for the vast majority of people and ailments the NHS is perfectly adequate, it’s just hobbled by the government at the moment. You could conduct a poll of almost any demographic in the country and they would say they would be willing to pay more taxes if they were ringfenced for the NHS.
I think that is pretty much anecdotal as per definition.
Sweden sure is doing well with digital innovations but can't say that the rest of the Nordics are performing equally as well. USA still has Silicon Valley which outperforms every other region in the world.
It's harder to determine the cause, though. Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that work ethic, level of dedication, drive and regulatory climate wrt. employee protections, consumer protections etc. has something to do with it.
But this is just a small part of the question. We also don't have solid access to investors and capital, a business/startup-friendly tax & regulatory climate, a home market of 300 million customers, a culturally compatible potential employee pool of 300 million, many of the world's greatest universities, thousands of successful entrepeneurs who participate in the business climate, entrepeneurial success as a prominent cultural trait, excelling in your chosen profession as something to be lauded, bureaucratic & legal support for companies that are about to become successful, a relatively judgement-free climate with regards to high compensation for successful professionals etc etc etc.
It's hard to say if the value of not having business/professional success, or even long hours as a primary cultural value is key when compared to these other elements.
I'm pretty confident that e.g. "The Law of Jante" easily trumps the lack of a 50-hour workweek as an impediment to success, but there are probably also downsides to not even having the latter as an option if it feels necessary.
While it clearly hasn't worked out this way (yet) having that social safety net actually should encourage entrepreneurial activity since you have a lot more freedom to fail. Once you succeed you sell out though, because it's easier to grow/expand in other locations.
We use Google, Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Apple - all American products. Whereas the Nordic countries produce very few major digital innovations used globally.
Also, I didn't know Estonia was a Nordic country.
Estonia I've always just considered a Baltic country, which I suppose is accurate as well. Not that these definitions really matter anyway.
A funny take on why other 'Nordic' countries don't think so
If by Nordic you mean Northern European, then Estonia is Nordic, all tho' often misrepresented as Eastern European.
You say we use them now. But some of these companies are barely past their teenage years. Nokia as a company is around 150 years old, they didnt win fast and they are still in business (but not in the phone business)
How long any of these current, not winners but ”winning it right now” last? Who knows.
They are still young, but they will all fail or ceases to exist eventually and hopefully dont leave cities bankrupt behind them.
Also, we all had instant messages, social networks (very small, geographically) etc. before these behemoths and now days globalism is getting some pushback around the globe, who knows how long and what markets they can later dominate.
Examples: Linux, Spotify, Unity, King, the radio base stations that your phone might be connected to, ...
I'd hope we would have a big list of recent examples of major innovations from the Nordics but unfortunately nearly all the major digital products or innovations seem to be decades old. I can't think of almost any globally really promising Finnish digital startup right now.
Well, it seems crass to point this out, but NATO has a big presence in the Baltic states right now because you guys won’t invest in your own defence. So yeah, that is what they do.
The current, or at least historical ecosystem might have been/is silicon valley...But, I'm curious what will happen in the future, when the ecosystem could be more easily replicated elsewhere globally. With regards to digital innovation - assuming products are less about physical goods, and more about digital services - I wonder when budding entrepreneurs will more often be able to generate startups elsewhere because enough of an ecosystem exists elsewhere in other regions/countries that ALSO have great well-being-related environments? I mean, if i were starting a company today, and i wanted customers that could afford to pay higher fees, maybe I wouldn't focus on the U.S. because more and more citizens have less disposal income? (After all, more and more U.S. folks are just trying to keep their heads above water, etc.) Maybe i would launch my startup in another region of the world because those customers are somewhat already comfortable in their lives - due to their nation's social safety net operating model - and would be more willing to part with their money to pay for my startup's higher fees (i.e. signing up for my imaginary startup's higher-margin price plans as opposed to the cheapo plans which have slim margins)?? In response, I suppose U.S. enterprises and especially those in U.S. public office, could try nudging the ecosystem to make U.S. more competitive...but that - i feel - just brings us to either companies working U.S. workers harder (because THAT is what they feel will save the day), or public office folks trying to "bring back" the silicon valley of the good ol' days...instead of - oh i don't know - innovating at the social operating model level. It's an interesting thought experiment. But, to rest on the laurels that silicon valley WAS an important ecosystem, and assuming (or hoping?) that it will continue to be the center of the innovation universe - to me - feels like its full of folly.
Yes, THIS exactly!
I think you're absolutely correct...but, lately, I've been questioning the whole premise that better business results are even a worthwhile pursuit...at least for me personally. If I bring in an additional $1MM of new value every year for my employer, i had to work really hard for that, and i only get a little pat on the head; and in the process have lost so much (mentally, physiologically, etc.). Certainly, I'm going through an existential change in my life, and as such little to no amount of justification of an American capitalist approach will make as much sense for me...But, nowadays, i really just want to chill a little bit, slow down, smell the roses, etc. And, ultimately, it feels for me that the U.S. seems like less of a place - profession-wise - to enable one to do that. (Sorry for the gloom.)
Like what? From birth mortality to all kinds of quality of life indicators its well below most of these countries...
Experiments shown an increment in productivity and happiness.
If you're a professional/salaried you work as much as the job requires, just like the US.
This adds up to the legal 5 weeks (25 days), for a total of 7 weeks (35 days). It's pretty common to use half a day here and there, basically reducing your work week.
So it's clearly not "just like the US".
>In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.
If 1 major company goes out of business, does it cause chaos?
High unemployment and lower tax revenue sounds like any moment the country could find itself in an economic depression.
In my local area this almost happened.
We are told of Utopia in Europe, but aren't told these stories.
Finland has a closed nickel mine which could become economical to operate once again since it also produces cobalt, which gets used in these types of batteries.
As for unemployment rate, 3.9%. Pretty close to the UK, USA, China.
As for tax, on $100K USD, you'd be taxed 28.3% on your income, and 15% on your consumption via GST.
In Finland the tax rate for $100K USD would be 41.3% on average. The common consumption tax is 24% (VAT). On top of that, certain goods like alcohol, gas, cars, could have additional goods specific tax that could be well over 100%.
Unemployment stands at I think 6.6%.
Thats around 3 times more representative per citizen.
It's more like more democracy = more social wellness.
EDIT: To have the same amount of representative in France, we would need ~1900 députés, which mean 19 députés per département, and ~6 députés per arondissement.
it would be much cheaper salary wise - also they could gather in a small meeting room somewhere ;) And those countries would stay as much "democratic" as now, just without the Potemkin village of the parliament...
 edit: by "party" I mean not the representatives, or all the party as a whole, but the leader of the party / or a smallish leading group
Election with a big voter pool tend, on the other end, to blur the individual for the benefit of identifiable group with clear political line. The result of this is that, the representative get elected because they are part of this group, not truly because of his own idea (although there is exception). Due to this, it is their expected behavior that they will be faithful to the line of the party.
All you need to do is set aside the notion that modern productivity equals having everyone at their desk at the same time. What does cultural homogeneity have to do with it?
Homogenous cultures have an easier time agreeing to all do the same thing. It’s called establishing social norms. I went to a STEM magnet high school that was about 1/3 Asian when I was there and is now 2/3 Asian. It was already known as a pressure cooker when I was a kid, and the competitiveness went way up since then. Why? Well I was one of those Asians. My dad grew up in a village in Bangladesh, moves his family to the US through hard work and a lot of luck. When I was in high school he told me I had to work 16 hours a day to be successful. I understand the arguments for limiting working hours at an intellectual level, but my gut reaction is to try do a little more than the next guy to get ahead. Even if it’s more for show than substance. And I’m raising my kids to do that too, because it’s my culture! (I can’t even really help it. My daughter is already kind of a striver to begin with, and my natural reaction is to reinforce those instincts.)
Doing what I do currently, constant 16 hour days would almost certainly result in hospitalization in a few weeks.
The former people seem to produce way better quality code and ideas compared to latter, but that is to be expected since they are in one way or another immersed in the "world of programming" more than others.
"Success" in what sense? When have you succeeded?
How much should a 16h/day workweek pay for it to be a "success" if you have kids? Would the kids agree on the assessment?
I realize I’m lucky to be able to make that choice (and my kids will get a higher education regardless) - but it makes me sad that anyone everywhere would need to choose between success as being a present parent and success as giving your kids economic stability.
For a large population working longer gives no obvious benefit.
It might work for you and your family! But globally, for any general population, you can't squeeze out more than the 7-8 hours of productive work per day and for even some fields this is a stretch.
So, even if there is the cultural need to appear ultra dedicated, there is very little evidence of any benefits to that behaviour pattern.
Lots of cultures have their way of doing things, but if it does not make sense, cultures can change.
I don't see how a cultural homogeinity is necessary to respond to cross cultural economic facts.
But the article was not about working longer! It was about being flexible when and how you want your employees to perform the added value function you've hired them to do.
I fail to see even less how cultural homogeinity would be a major factor in this.
You are quite right of course that cultural norms affect lots of things. But I don't know why they would block employers from being flexible (flexible does not mean less demanding).
First, productivity is heavily influenced by technology and financialization of the economy. A programmer working 8 hours per day creates a much larger GDP than a factory worker working 8 hours per day. So you can't compare the productivity of workers in a place like Mexico, where there is a lot of manufacturing and agricultural work, to a place like the USA, where a lot of the work is in fields like finance, software development, media, etc. (In your article, that's why Luxembourg has 50% higher GDP per hour worked as compared to Germany or the US--it's a heavily financialized economy.)
Second, there is a difference between productivity per hour worked and total productivity. Working more hours can lead to diminished productivity per hour, but still lead to overall higher GDP. The chart in the article actually proves that. Each American worker is responsible for $119,000 in GDP per year. Each Danish worker is responsible for $96,500 per year. Americans work about 23% more hours and produce about 23% more overall.
Third, even if there are diminishing returns to working more hours, they're not huge. Americans work a full quarter more than Germans, while maintaining higher productivity per hour. Part of that is due to America being more of a high-tech/financial economy, but in any event it doesn't seem like the extra work is tanking productivity.
As to the point about cultural homogeneity: the success of flexible work arrangements are predicated on social consensus, and building social consensus requires homogeneous values and attitudes. If you want to build a work culture where people feel comfortable taking 4-5 weeks of vacation, having a bunch of Americans who think it's better to work 25% more for 25% more money is going to undermine that. If you want people to feel comfortable working from home, having people who are culturally pre-disposed to associating face time with commitment to the job is going to undermine that.
As soon as there was a talented company that wanted to work hard for the market (Apple), Nokia was toast.
In 2011 Nokia started using windows phone os which, at the time, no one knew if it was going to catch on. In 2014 Microsoft bought the phone division and kept the OS although at that point it was clear that it was not going to work out. Operation stopped in 2017.
Had Nokia jumped on board of the smart phone grace right off the bat and supported Google instead of Microsoft the scene might be way different.
To put it simply, they missed the transition to smartphones, just like Blackberry. They were in control of their OS, it makes sense they didn't want to give it away before it became clear that they couldn't do it.
They had Symbian, which was old and crappy, and Maemo then Meego which apparently, they didn't push enough. The real winning move would have been to bet everything on Meego, bring in the partners they have with Symbian before Android took the market. They didn't do it because they were clinging to the dying Symbian.
Honestly, if they had adopted Android right away I'm not sure they would have been able to compete against HTC/LG/Samsung and other Asian companies.