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Why Finland leads the world in flexible work (bbc.com)
140 points by algui91 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

I can highly recommend the world to adopt like in the Nordics at least 4-5 weeks of yearly vacation. Staff are more rested with more vacation so they are more productive plus you get a different perspective having time off. Also companies should allow remote work and flexible hours. Further due to increased automation we could actually work less hours keeping the same output. If we automate more work we could allow us selves more free time, still enjoying the same output.

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_b...

Increased productivity doesn't lead to increased wages and increased automation doesn't lead to less work/lower number of days/hours at work. Management plays dominance game, that only works when employees are made feel frustrated and stressed; any move towards happiness like reduced hours and work from home/remotely diminishes any gains from dominance game; relaxed employees with many options would require any monetary gains from productivity to be reflected on their paychecks.

You state this like it's a natural fact. That's how it is in many places, _today_. It doesn't have to be this way. As far as I know, there is no law of physics that has us locked into this way of operating society.

it’s helpful to articulate the status quo as a first step toward authorizing an alternative.

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.

It's a fact in majority of companies; I have experiences with two companies that ran on different principles and were wildly profitable, so it could be done differently. Also, I am pretty much disgusted by what I observe, but it's an unfortunate part of reality and I am not going to unsee it to feel better about whatever. If you want to change something for the better, you need to understand what is wrong and what is better, hoping people after you would recognize what was wrong in your approach and correct it even more instead of regressing/oscillating.

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.

All fair points. I was discouraged when I read your original comment, because I took it at face value as "this is what it is, this is what it always will be" but that wasn't your intention.

One effect of this in the Nordic culture is that often a lot of these holidays are taken at the same time. People take 3 or 4 weeks off at once between the end of June and early August, especially in Norway. Productivity for the company effectively hits zero for 6 weeks whilst the Norwegians have their holiday, then the Swedish and Danish have their turn.

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!

There's an important second-order benefit to this though:

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 worked in Finland in 2001-2002 in what we would call now startup and even lead managers or scientists in company were not in the office in July-August. They simply worked more during winter and spent as much of Finnish summer outside as possible. But as article mentions, it was usual to take long vacations even in government jobs - if you needed visa for your relative, you'd better have it before June, or you would get it in September, since clerks were out of office :).

I worked for a year in an incubator in Oslo, full of start ups that talked about “work hard, play hard” & having to put in extra effort. The building was practically empty by 6pm.

> Since then, discussions about the benefits of flexible working have intensified around the world, with a boom in large global companies embracing the concept...

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>

I am working in an American company for 17.5 years, most from home (12 years) with occasional visits to the local branch office (Europe) and sometimes to the headquarter in US. I work on different time zones as needed and it gives me some flexibility, but longer hours to make up for it.

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.

On the other hand, exactly because of the high work ethic USA excels in many regards that these "well-being nations" do not. But you're right, it doesn't necessarily lead to a better health to work harder, however, often it does lead to better business results.

I dispute the "better business results" claim, I don't think that's factually true. But let's assume it is, why then is wealth so much more concentrated[0] in the US?

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"[1] discusses a lot of good (and bad) about that part of the world.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_eq...

[1] https://economics.mit.edu/files/5726

Workers are benefiting from it, at least financially. The median income in the U.S. is more than 20% higher than in Finland, adjusted for cost of living: https://economistsview.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451b33869e20133.... (Note also that the American work-week is only about 7% longer than the Finish work-week.) That difference increases as you go into the upper middle class.

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.

That figure leaves off the cost of healthcare (both premiums and services) for the US but includes it for Finland. So you aren't comparing like with like.

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 figure includes employer-paid and government-paid insurance for both countries. 80% of health expenditures in Finland are paid by the government or employers, and almost 90% in the U.S. https://www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/OECD-Focus-on-Out....

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.

>Workers are benefiting from it, at least financially. The median income in the U.S. is more than 20% higher than in Finland, adjusted for cost of living

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...

See above re: healthcare expenses. College costs are also small in comparison to a lifetime of earning thousands of dollars less. Most college graduates in the US have no debt, and the median debt for those that do is $10,000-25,000. Higher American salaries make that up in just a few years. Finnish National pension isn’t any more generous than Social Security, and other expenses are tiny in comparison.

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.

There are 44.2 million borrowers who owe a total of over $1.5 trillion in student debt. That's a 35K average, but there are people owing 50K and 100K.

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.

>> the US is working average workers harder so that the ultra-wealthy can get even wealthier. Does that benefit society at large?

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.

In contrast, if USA is not performing better then why are most of the digital innovations of US origin? Why do like half of the world's tech billionaires live in Silicon Valley? While Finland has maybe 1?

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.

> Why do like half of the world's tech billionaires live in Silicon Valley?

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.

You are in no way answering to the question: why in Silicon Valley and not in Finland or other countries?

Because the military-industrial complex of the world’s largest super power invested in the basic research and infrastructure to create this context. It’s the same reason the Soviet’s excelled in technological pursuits relative to many small European countries and why Russia still has an outsized place in IT.

Because Finland, while would appreciate having such large companies, doesn't want this kind of shitty social environment and inequality, so it doesn't encourage it. Besides, it does just as well (and ever better than the US for the large majority of its citizens) without having billionaires...

> 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'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.

The poor do not get poorer. It's not a zero sum game. The size of the pie is constantly increasing in absolute terms.

I don't think you understand how US salaries compare to European ones, it's not even close.

>The poor do not get poorer. It's not a zero sum game. The size of the pie is constantly increasing in absolute terms.

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...

1. Almost stagnant means that they did not increase their % of wealth - their wealth increased. 2. Focusing on income ignores the plummeting costs of goods, what they can buy is much better and more plentiful than they could in the 70s.

>Focusing on income ignores the plummeting costs of goods, what they can buy is much better and more plentiful than they could in the 70s.

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).

Agreed, healthcare, education, and housing -- the three most regulated and corrupt industries have grown at an accelerated rate. The are hurting people -- they are caused by unlimited loans (education), corruption/bureaucracy/regulation (healthcare), and housing (government regulation/zoning). These have nothing to do with income and production, but instead are caused by poor governing policies and regulation.

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.

>In contrast, if USA is not performing better then why are most of the digital innovations of US origin? Why do like half of the world's tech billionaires live in Silicon Valley? While Finland has maybe 1?

Because there are a lot of people with servant mentality there to cater to their whims...

Low taxes.

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.

> 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.

Yes, in the UK most professional jobs will offer private health as a benefit, plus NHS rules for getting on lists for operations are pretty fair, essentially if you can prove it’s affecting your life you can get operations for lots of things. There are the classic tabloid stories of people getting boob jobs and gender reassignment surgery on the NHS but I’m sure for the people affected it was a godsend.

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 as chatting with someone in UK on Reddit who has some rare disease and trying to see what he could do to improve from it. Apparently he had reached a dead end with the UK medical system but his research indicated there are some doctors in the US who knew more and was desperately trying to find a way to get the same treatment. Sadly all his parents/sibling died from that disease so he had no support network. I felt really bad for him but had no way to help him. All I could suggest is he speak to a patient advocate. What would you have told him differently?

The NHS has been fucked by consistent cuts by the Tory government. Unfortunately they just don’t have enough money to cater for things like this. I would write to my MP but I know that’s just going to be a fart in the wind.

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.

> Edit: not anecdotal.

I think that is pretty much anecdotal as per definition.

to clarify, not anecdotal to me having primary sources, but yes anecdotal to those reading my anecdote.

The US has 330+ million people and Finland has 7 or so... :-)

Citation needed on that. Scandinavian work ethic and culture is in my opinion good, and puts emphasis on overcoming hierarchical inertia (e.g. we don't use titles) and lateral thinking in a way that I feel North Americans don't, rather, the emphasis is on "the grind." Putting in insane hours, staying after the boss, etc. A thin veneer of productivity if you ask me. The reason the US excels in business is, I would say, being more willing to sell out their people, though they're probably meeting their match with China and Asia in general now.

Well just dropping a link to a news article or a study wouldn't really change things. If you look at who's the one producing major digital innovations it's still USA. Sure the Nordic countries are smaller but it's hard to compete against countries like USA with well educated people with strong work ethic when you're pushing in half the hours.

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.

I don't think, at all that Amazon, Facebook, Google, Tesla, SpaceX, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, +++ could have happened in Scandinavia. Even our small success stories are sold to foreign investors before they have time to grow big.

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.

I agree with what you said. All these things compound and have multiplied effects. It's hard to blame a single factor like working hours when the underlying reasons for even that are cultural, political, geographical, historical etc.

The Scandinavian countries are all in essence "nanny states", great to live in if you are not too ambitious or entrepreneurial. Also because of low-population density and abundant natural resources, their experiments with regard to social-welfare have worked. Unfortunately, that model cannot be replicated in the rest of the world, let alone highly populous countries.

> great to live in if you are not too ambitious or entrepreneurial.

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.

The observed result is people are not encouraged to do anything out of the ordinary because the current life is good enough and the reward for success is just big taxes, so the system is encouraging the status quo.

The labor laws make it hard to hire and fire. So yeah you can start something, but can't do much if the employee does not work out.

Abundant natural resources? Finland only has timber, hardly the stuff of billionaire dreams :-)

Sweden has a lot of entrepreneurs for being a pretty small country and has historically been pretty friendly to companies.

I'm an Estonian, also a nordic country. We have a bunch of things we are years ahead of in terms of digital innovations (https://e-estonia.com/), all while having a 1.3m population. What does the USA do better exactly?

Estonia is certainly performing well. But since it's so tiny it's really hard to compare against a giant like USA. Although much of the same problem applies to Nordics.

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.

Ok I'm used to considering only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland as Nordic countries. They're also the only members of the Nordic council.

Estonia I've always just considered a Baltic country, which I suppose is accurate as well. Not that these definitions really matter anyway.

>> Also, I didn't know Estonia was a Nordic country.

Relevant: https://satwcomic.com/party-crasher



A funny take on why other 'Nordic' countries don't think so

Well, true, all the big players are from USA. But as far digital innovation inside of a nation go, and for the nation, USA needs to do a lot of catching up. Because while true that USA made a thing called "instagram influencers", it has done very little for its people.

If by Nordic you mean Northern European, then Estonia is Nordic, all tho' often misrepresented as Eastern European.

> We use Google, Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Apple - all American products.

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.

But on the other hand, any meaningful comparisons get harder and less relevant for us if we use a time span of the past 150 years. I don't know if it really even matters that much that most companies die eventually. They're still producing lots of value right now. While Nokia is certainly not doing particularly well nowadays despite having a long and partially very successful history.

Edit: year

What's your point? The Nordics have a relatively high contribution of "innovations", higher than other countries that don't work "half the hours".

Examples: Linux, Spotify, Unity, King, the radio base stations that your phone might be connected to, ...

But even Linux was ultimately developed in USA. So was/is Unity. I don't know if Linux would've ever been the success it is had Linus Torvalds stayed in Finland developing it.

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.

I still remember Skype before Microsoft. And Nokia before Microsoft :-)

What does the USA do better exactly?

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.

That is related to the funding in silicon valley. So many people who want to do startups in europe move to silicon valley.

Yep, that's much of the reason. The whole ecosystem is just incredibly well developed over there.

> ...The whole ecosystem is just incredibly well developed...

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.

> ...The reason the US excels in business is, I would say, being more willing to sell out their people...

Yes, THIS exactly!

> ...often it does lead to better business results.

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.)

>On the other hand, exactly because of the high work ethic USA excels in many regards that these "well-being nations" do not.

Like what? From birth mortality to all kinds of quality of life indicators its well below most of these countries...

Its interesting how there are 3 top rated articles today on working hours / patterns.

It is fairly easy to pick up a success, make a story around it and generalize. But in the same time Finland is at the top of European countries on the depression. Is there any relation between flexible work and depression? No idea, just throwing random "leads the world" facts.

I really doubt it's that. Probably more to do with how little sunshine there is over the winter (which is long and cold).

Everyday I love this country a little more...

Nordic countries are so advanced in so many things... Look at Swede, with its 6 hours/day of work.

What? Sweden works 40 hours per week.

They were transitioning to a six-hours workday, as far as I know.

- https://www.sciencealert.com/sweden-is-shifting-to-a-6-hour-... - https://www.thelocal.se/20140408/swedish-workers-to-test-six...

Experiments shown an increment in productivity and happiness.

Well I work and live in Sweden (notice I put work first?) and it's far from 6hrs/day for most industries. Actually now that I think about it I don't know a single person who only works 6 hours per day. The idea is great though, wish it were true :/

Oh, what a shame, I though it was real :-(

It's never as real or good as you think. France's famous 35 hour workweek only really applies to people who clock in hourly wages. Even there, it's merely the number where overtime kicks in.

If you're a professional/salaried you work as much as the job requires, just like the US.

Plus it is super difficult to get said professional/salaried job because they are so afraid of hiring folks.

Yup. I hear about this awesome work-life balance in Europe and then I jump on a call with my Swiss colleagues who are in the office at 6pm working their asses off.

Except if you're not at 35 hour per week you have RTT: basically additional PTO, about 2 weeks (10 days).

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".

Depends on whether you consider breakfast & fika to be work hours ;)

Wasn't this just a trial that had mixed results? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38843341

Yes, it seems I was misinformed. Sorry

No this was a PR stunt that apparently really worked well.

God that kind of articles are awful. Don't tell me an effing child fable, just lay the facts.

im pretty sure scandanavia leads the world in quality of life

Finland isn't Scandanavia.

In common English usage it often is:

>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.


I can't fathom what life is like in such a small country.

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.

Yes, the fall of Nokia (even though it didn't go completely out of business) had a big impact, especially in some regions. Here is a rough timeline: https://www.quora.com/How-has-the-decline-of-Nokia-affected-...

It doesn't explain what life is like due to losing that industry.

We are told of Utopia in Europe, but aren't told these stories.

Currently in Salo there is work underway on a battery factory for EVs, IIRC in the old Nokia facilities.

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.

Nordic countries are quite good if you want give away some personal freedoms. A reverse side of security is always loss of liberty in some way. Some people like it and some not. I don’t.

I bet Americans are feeling pretty free with the on-going mass-shootings and rampant outright bribing of politicians by corporations and lobbyists. I am happy with the security. To me American system feels insane and is characterized by delusional statements like yours. You think you are the absolute free'est country on earth, while it's in practise no different to any other developed country. Yet you preach about it like you invented it. Sure you can shoot big guns and pay your own education, but i bet in some undeveloped countries you could run your own kingdom. There you could do whatever you wanted! Such freedom, a true American dream

I'm quite curious to hear what these personal freedoms are you need to give away in the Nordic countries? Freedom to pay huge student debts maybe?

Can you be more specific about what you mean? Here in Finland we have Everyman's Rights, which are quite expansive. We have duties to par though.

I'm from New Zealand. What's our major companies? None of them employ more than 20,000 employees globally. Sure that's a lot of people to lose a job, but the big companies are building, groceries, airlines, and telecommunications. If the companies go under, the demand for the products doesn't disappear.

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.

Interesting, since New Zealand is in many ways comparable with Finland.

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%.

I had heard of numerous great things of New Zealand related to jobs (low unemployment), good salaries/wages, etc...And then i read something the other day about either Auckland or Wellington being the cities with among the highest costs of living, as compared to other global cities (like, really high on the list). I guess it sort of shocked me....Mind you, I'm not an economist, but I naively assumed that healthy economies wouldn't necessarily have such cities/regions with disproportionately high costs of living. But, I guess in the case of (again, sorry for not recalling exactly which city it was) Auckland or Wellington, it sure sounds like it to me. Nevertheless, I look forward to visiting your beautiful country, and contributing my tourist money to your economy! ;-)

All these countries are well connected to the rest of Europe, so even if one big company goes down there's still business to do with all the neighbors.

Why $culturally_homogeneous_and_highly_educated_country leads the world in $social_wellness

Let's look at a simple fact: Finland as a Parliament of 200 seat for a population of roughly 5.5 million. France as a Parliament of 577 seat for a population of roughly 67 million.

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.

Finland has 4-5000 trees per person. Clearly it's the abundance of trees that creates the social wellness.

Well ofc the reality is more complex than that and my example is an oversimplification. But the point still stand. The more a country is democratic, the more benefit will be distributed to the global population instead of a small portion of it.

I don't think many would agree that a larger parliament would make something "more democratic". It must matter infinitely less than e.g. a media climate, level of corruption, regulation of political donations, etc. etc.

In many countries every member of the parliament push the button decided by their party[1] - so one representative per party would be sufficient:

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...

[1] 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

A higher number of representative per citizen ten to counter this effect. When an election as a small number of people who vote, their vote as more individual power, which mean, the people who end up being elected has more responsibility toward the voter, since each of them can significantly impact his chance of being re-elected.

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.

We have more representatives in the Parliament than France for a quarter of the population, everybody is voting what the party leader decides. Hard facts, not anecdotal evidence.

The article was very specific about the culture of flexible working hours, not a general set piece about social wellness.

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?

> 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.)

As a Finn, I really can't imagine doing an office job 16 hours a day for a sustained period of time; even the standard seven and a half is a challenge to fill with productive work every day (certainly you could idle at the office but that doesn't count as working). A single 16-hour day is doable if there's really something to do, but it would cause me to take the next day off.

Doing what I do currently, constant 16 hour days would almost certainly result in hospitalization in a few weeks.

At least in programming you can easily see who do put in extra effort be it studying/playing with new tech or writing new software and thous who for it is only a 9 to 5 job.

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.

(I'm not a Finn) I struggle to think what could possibly benefit from someone spending 16 hours devoted to something. Maybe something on the creative side of things like writing a book/novel?? But even then, I would guess that it would get the creative juices moving even more if you actually step away from the computer/typewriter/notebook for a time! What the heck in a business/enterprise environment benefits from anyone being there 16 hours in a day? Seems more and more like a hamster running inside a wheel to me. ;-)

> he told me I had to work 16 hours a day to be successful.

"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?

And why you should be successful? This is just life - existing and being is success.

My point was something along the lines of this: “I pick my kids up at school at 4 and make them dinner every day at 5. I consider that successful”

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.

Mexico has the worst productivity of the listed countries and the longest workweek:


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).

You're mixing up several different things. "Productivity" is a measure of GDP created by labor. That has several significant implications:

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.

What a fantastic reply. I'm now more convinced the point of view you expressed in your argument is more correct than mine :)

Nokia is a good example of why this doesn't work.

As soon as there was a talented company that wanted to work hard for the market (Apple), Nokia was toast.

Then how about Motorola, a US company in the same market segment, which also failed?

No, bad example. Nokia failed because they were using windows mobile instead of Android.

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.

Surely Apple is an example of working smarter rather than harder?

it's of both. Nokia was heavily constrained by the Finnish labor laws and working culture.

Listening to people who worked at Nokia before shut down there was a lot of wasted time and effort on products that lead nowhere. They missed the boat with the smart phones. It took too long for Nokia to come out with a smart phone line and it was plagued with hardware design flaws. Then they gambled on the OS and rest is history.

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.

It's hard to predict an alternate future, but by the time the adopted Windows they were already in a bad position.

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.

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