A local official in Sweden has a novel proposal to improve work-life balance and lift the local birthrate: give municipal employees an hourlong 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 health care and a common ritual of coffee and pastry, known as fika, which is considered sacrosanct.
Per-Erik Muskos, a 42-year-old councilman from the northern town of Overtornea, wants to add to those benefits, by offering the municipality’s 550 employees the right to subsidized 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 aging marriages and improve employee morale.
The idea quickly got attention all over Sweden, where for at least some, it was a welcome distraction from President Trump’s vague reference to problems the country was having with immigration, which were strongly denied by baffled Swedes.
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, which is expected to be voted on in the spring, 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 in his motion in Overtornea, a town of about 4,500 in the picturesque and remote Torne Valley. “This could be an opportunity for couples to have their own time, only for each other.”
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. But befitting a progressive country which has long been perceived as a beacon of sexual enlightenment — including blissfully kitsch performances at the Eurovision Song Contest — the proposal was taken in stride.
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 favor of a walk in the country.
The proposal comes as countries across Europe are grappling with how to balance the rigors of modernity and work with the desire for better quality of life. In France, which already has a mandatory 35-hour workweek, subsidized health care and long vacations, the Socialist government recently passed legislation granting employees the “right to disconnect.” The measure calls for companies with more than 50 employees to help ensure that work does not intrude into days off.
Sweden has been at the forefront of European countries seeking to engender employee satisfaction. An experiment with a six-hour workday in the southern city of Gothenburg was recently scrapped after it was deemed too expensive. But proponents of the experiment, which was carried out over two years in a city-run retirement home, said it made employees happier, healthier and more productive. The six-hour workday has also proved successful in the private sector, including at a Toyota vehicle service center, where it helped improve business.
Demographic pressures have been worrying countries across Europe, including Spain, Italy and Germany. In recent years in Denmark, policy makers have been so concerned about the birthrate that they started to offer sex education classes focused on procreation rather than contraception. One travel company even introduced a “Do It for Denmark!” campaign, encouraging couples to take romantic holidays to try to procreate, claiming that Danes had 46 percent more sex while on holiday.
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.
Malin Hansson, 41, a sexologist and specialist in reproductive health in Gothenburg, applauded the initiative, arguing that sex reduced stress, improved sleep and strengthened immunity, while enriching intimacy between couples. “If it was up to me, I would introduce this across the country,” she said, adding: “In Sweden, sex is considered just another activity.”
Lotta Dellve, a professor in the sociology department at the University of Gothenburg, said that her research showed that short burst of physical activity during office hours had many benefits, including productivity. “This activity could include sex, why not?” she asked.
But Professor Dellve, who is married and has two daughters in their 20s, said it would be ridiculous for employers to mandate when employees should become intimate. “It is wonderful to see your spouse during the workday, but you don’t necessarily want to have sex,” she said.
Stefan Nilsson, a Green Party member who sits on the health and welfare committee of the Swedish Parliament, said he was skeptical that taxpayers would want their money to finance work-hour sex, but allowed that the idea might be a canny investment in physical activity, noting that healthier workers cost the government less.
Others were less persuaded.
Tomas Vedestig, 42, a left-leaning municipal councilman in Overtornea, said that when Mr. Muskos made his pitch, his colleagues were so taken aback that they thought they had misheard him. Mr. Vedestig said the proposal was intrusive and threatened to embarrass people who do not have sexual partners; do not want to have sex; or had medical conditions that precluded sex.
“I don’t think it’s the employer’s business to to say ‘go home for an hour and make babies,’” he said. And some proponents worried the proposal was too stingy: “I spoke to a couple of older gentlemen who said, ‘One hour? That is not enough time.’”