Sick days continue to climb despite government's wish
The Swedish Social Insurance Agency predicts that the number of sick days taken will keep rising to an average of 13 days per person per year in 2020, according to a debate piece in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, but the government would prefer to see the number drop instead.
In the piece, Ann-Marie Begler, director general of the agency, and Lars-Åke Brattlund, the insurance director for sick insurance, write that sick absences are digging an ever deeper hole into the state budget. Since 2010, they write, costs have risen by nearly SEK 16 billion.
In October, the average number of sick days people took per year was 10.3, and the government wants to lower that number to nine by 2020.
Begler and Brattlund writes that the agency cannot put the brakes on rising sick absences alone, and that employers, doctors and attitudes to sick absence are at least as important in reducing the number of days people are off sick.
Brattlund, who tells Radio Sweden he does not believe people are abusing the system, says that the danger with sick leave is that the longer people stay away from work, the harder it is to go back.
"The doctors, when the write the doctor's certificate, we need to have a good discussion about whether sick leave is the right treatment for the problem that the individual is having at the moment," Brattlund says.
"If you go to doctor number one and he denies you the sick leave, you can go to doctor number two and perhaps he or she will give you the sick leave," Brattlund says, calling for more consistency.
Annika Strandhäll, the Social Security Minister (Social Democrat), told news agency TT that the statistics did not come as a surprise.
"It's precisely these statistics that have now been presented - that we have this worrying development - that's the basis for the powerful measures the government put forward just a month and a half ago," said Strandhäll. The program comprises seven different areas and 25 different measures, and neither Begler nor Strandhäll believe anything else needs to be done for the moment.
Strandhäll said that the measures were in the process of being implemented, and that their progress would be followed carefully. She added that the issue was complex and can take time to imrpove, but she felt that the government's goal to reduce the average number of sick days by 2020, remains realistic.