The Swedish town of Övertorneå was on the verge of voting in favor of a radical move: paid sex leave for its municipal workers.
Unfortunately, bureaucracy and traditional social mores got in the way. This week, Övertorneå’s 31-member council rejected local politician Per-Erik Muskos’ proposal of a one-hour paid sex break each week.
When Muskos first proposed his idea in February, some people on the council outright laughed, but it was no joke to Muskos.
“We should encourage procreation. I believe that sex is often in short supply. Everyday life is stressful and the children are at home,” Muskos said about why a sex leave was needed, citing the town’s low birth rate.
A Swedish sexologist in favor of the idea noted that Swedish parents had a 30% separation rate and that the mandated hour could promote needed intimacy. Denmark, too, has promoted more sex for its citizens as a way of boosting the country’s birthrate.
Other people around the world reacted with reflexive derision. Subsidized hanky panky?
But if there was anywhere in the world where workers would get subsidized sex, it would happen in Sweden where work-life balance is a government concern. The country already has the most generous parental leave policy in the world: parents get 480 days per child that can be used anytime until the child is 8 years old. Övertorneå’s municipal workers already get a paid hour of week to pursue (non-amorous) wellbeing and fitness activities.
In Sweden’s city of Gothenburg, the city experimented with a six-hour workday and found it led to happier and more productive employees — although they also found that it would be too expensive to be adopted widely.
Elsewhere in Europe, work-life balance is also a top concern. France has a mandated 35-hour work week that has been a source of controversy for years. Spain has long had a tradition of a midday siesta, but that also means they work longer hours and finish later than other European countries. The average Spanish worker doesn’t finish work until 8 p.m.
And these countries also have informal times designated for romantic pursuits. In Spain, the siesta isn’t just for sleeping, and in France there’s a cultural tradition of the cinq á sept, or the hours between 5 pm and 7 pm set aside for romantic liaisons.
The pros and cons of subsidized sex
One of the cons of the proposal is how to enforce it: how can employers make sure workers are using that hour to increase the population of the nation?
The other glaring drawback of the proposal surrounds state-sponsored intimacy: how much should the government be involved in your sex life? And — for the more liberated — does paid sex leave to raise a birth rate enforce a culture that implies sex is only for procreation?
Critics also noted that this stigmatized single people and people uninterested in sex. “The break should be used for a walk or going to a gym. A love act with your loved one should be done in your own free time, not during paid work hours,” one of members of the Övertorneå council, Tomas Mortberg, told The New York Times.
But if the execution of the idea needed more thought, the idea still had merit. One council member noted that the global attention the proposal received meant that talking about sex is “no longer taboo.”
Although his proposal failed, Muskos maintains that the sex leave during the workday would help people make time for themselves: “When you are at home you have social media, you have to take your children to football and ice hockey, you don’t have time to take care of each other and have time together without children.”