A Swede idea: Having sex during work hours

Travellers waiting at Stockholm Central Station, on Dec 23, 2016.
Travellers waiting at Stockholm Central Station, on Dec 23, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

STOCKHOLM • A local official in Sweden has a novel proposal to improve work-life balance and lift the local birthrate: Give municipal employees an hour-long paid break each week to go home and have sex.

Sweden is already celebrated for its generous welfare state, including 480 days of paid parental leave, universal healthcare and a common ritual of coffee and pastry, known as fika, which is considered sacrosanct.

Councilman Per-Erik Muskos, 42, from the northern town of Overtornea, wants to offer the municipality's 550 employees the right to subsidised sex.

In introducing his proposal this week, he told fellow members of the town council that it would give a nudge to the dwindling local population, add spice to ageing marriages and improve employee morale.

Noting that "sex is also a great form of exercise and has documented positive effects on well-being", Mr Muskos suggested that local municipal employees could use an hour of the workweek already allotted for fitness activities to go home and have sex with their spouses or partners instead.

The motion, expected to be voted on within a few months, needs a simple majority to be passed by the 31-member council. As of now, opinion on the council is divided.

"We should encourage procreation. I believe that sex is often in short supply. Everyday life is stressful and the children are at home," Mr Muskos explained.

His proposal has generated praise, ridicule and criticism. Some critics fear single workers could while away their working hours on the dating app Tinder trying to find a date for their weekly interlude.

When Mr Muskos introduced the motion on Monday, some council members giggled while others said they were not amused.

It made headlines across Sweden and beyond. "Suggestion: Let the staff have sex during working hours," a headline in the newspaper Expressen declared, under a photograph showing a couple in bed.

Mr Muskos told colleagues the proposal was no joke, though he acknowledged practical problems like enforcement. It would be difficult to tell, for example, if an employee eschewed sex in favour of a walk in the country.

Sweden has among the highest fertility rates in the European Union, according to Eurostat, the bloc's statistic agency, in part because of the country's generous parental leave systems and immigration. But the fertility rate has nevertheless been decreasing recently.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2017, with the headline 'A Swede idea: Having sex during work hours'. Print Edition | Subscribe