Sweden is known around the world for its unique population policy measures. To encourage couples and families to make a step towards parenthood, Swedish law provides a 480-day paid parental leave. This time can be divided between both mothers and fathers, allowing women to return to work while their husbands spend up to 90 days at home with the kids. The fertility rates are not too alarming, though: in more than half a century, Sweden has gone from 2.2 to 1.9 children per women, a 9 percent decrease.
It’s also known that on average Swedish people work less than Americans do. Whereas the U.S. citizens clock in little less than 1,800 hours, the Swedes work only about 1,600 hours per year. Not just that, but the idea to go from an 8-hour workday to a 6-hour one is gaining traction in the Swedish public. In addition to the hefty lunch break, the Swedes also get an hour-long paid leave each week to engage in sports activities, just one of the Government’s many benefits for members of its workforce.
Adding Sex to the Mix
The Municipality of Övertorneå in the northeast of Sweden saw its already small population decrease by 10 percent in just ten years: from 5,299 to merely 4,711 people. Worried that this trend will go on until the local population is decimated, local councilor Per-Erik Muskos made an interesting proposal earlier this year. He urged the municipal council to give a one-hour paid leave per week to the municipal workers – about 550 people in all – to go home and have sex with their partners.
To make matters more practical, Muskos didn’t suggest adding this perk on top of all the other benefits. His idea was to allow those who are not interested in pursuing sports activities to instead use this hour, which is already paid for, to have sex with their other halves. To back up this idea, Muskos stated that sex by itself is already a form of exercise, so the difference wouldn’t be that big. He also cited research that suggests tremendous positive effects sex can have on a person’s well-being.
Muskos sees this as another measure that would help prevent fertility rates from going down any further. According to him, maintaining regular sexual relationships between two spouses would bring more happiness to marriages. When marital life is full of bliss, the decision to procreate comes more easily. Furthermore, some studies have shown that people who spend time with their family on a regular basis tend to be more relaxed and have better focus at work.
He acknowledged that some people may abuse this benefit by claiming they’ve had sex with their partner in order to have an excuse to work one hour less each week. While waiting for his motion to be voted on by the members of the Town Council, Muskos said that the ultimate decision would boil down to how much trust councilors have in the municipal workers. To his advantage, a country-by-country survey has placed Sweden among the top 5 countries based on mutual trust between people.
No Sex during the Working Hours
In May 2017, all 31 members of the Town Council met to vote on Muskos’ proposal. Their decision to not allow paid sex leave for municipal workers was almost unanimous. They explained it by claiming that they don’t want to interfere in people’s private lives and added, somewhat cynically, that if “sexual excursions” were to be subsidized, the same would apply to activities such as cleaning and gardening.
In the end, it turns out even something as integral to our well-being as sex can serve as a backdrop for political games. Muskos is a left-wing politician, whereas the majority of the councilors are from a rival right-wing party. There’s a silver lining to all of this, however: the Mayor of Övertorneå noted that people have started to discuss sexual matters more openly as a result of this initiative. Whether similar motions will be introduced in other towns and countries remains to be seen.