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No, Sweden is not moving to a six hour work day

Around the English speaking web, Sweden has been touted as the heroic pioneer of progressivism with it’s adoption of the 6-hour work day. Just google “sweden six hour work day” and you’ll find a bunch of clickbait websites write about how <insert country> is silly for not following suit.

The only problem is, such a transition never happened.

I can’t pinpoint the first article in the chain of hype, but the hype seems to have started somewhere in mid-September. The earliest article relating to the hype is a small Swedish search engine optimization company Barth publishing an article on why their company transitioned to a six hour work day, dated September 10th. This article was cited as a source in an article on a website called the Fast Company dated September 29, from which at least much of the hype was sourced, including to the Guardian, Huffington Post, CNN and VICE.

The Fast Company article makes an entirely irresponsible claim, that “In Sweden, the six-hour workday is becoming common.“, then cites a Swedish app developer “filimundus” on the issue, without him actually making such a claim.

I happen to speak Swedish as my second language and follow Swedish news. There is no mention of any such transition in Swedish papers.  There has been no recent political decision in Sweden to transition to a six hour work day, not even serious discussion. If such a transition occurred, it would be The Talk of The Town for several years. VICE even called up the Swedish public office for labour mediation, only to be told they’d never heard of such a thing.

Swedish media actually seems to be oblivious to the hype surrounding the country since September, since I haven’t seen any news concerning the false hype either. The Swedish media has recently run stories on two old people’s homes experimenting with the six hour work day and a few small IT companies transitioning. Over the years, there have been other experiments too, albeit with meager results.

This is, however, very far from society transitioning as a whole. Politically, only the Left Party with 6% of the parliament’s seats is vouching for such a transition. The only company to have employed a six hour day for a longer period of time is a Toyota car dealership and repair shop in a small town called Mölndal, south of Gothenburg.

Therefore, claiming Sweden is transitioning to a six hour work day is like saying all northern Americans practice Native American religions.

Though each and everyone of us is responsible for what we share online, it’s still the big media that is to blame for giving this hype it’s source of fuel. Major media outlets should sack people who repeatedly let this kind of clickbait past the radar. Welcome to the internet age.

Still; if you shared the news story on Sweden transitioning, it’s your responsibility to share the correction too.

PS: I’m not trying to jump on the share-and-like cancer bandwagon. The problem with popular misinformation is that the corrections never get shared as much as the quack, causing enormous bias and promoting urban legends that survive for decades. 

The author is a Finnish political blogger, politician and prominent debunker. Most of this site is in Finnish. This article is a follow-up to the author’s Finnish-language posts on Facebook and Twitter on October 2nd.

Published inIn English

3 Comments

  1. Good point! I though Sweden was about to adopt the 6hrs labour “system”. Glad you came out and made it clear. Yesterday, I watched on CNN Fareed Zakaria “What in the World”, about the 6hrs labour system. We all know that the internet is full of garbage but I though that TV stations would filter the news before airing it. Thank you from Portugal.

  2. Thanks for the thorough clarification. As a US citizen, I’m not shocked to see such falsehood raging around the internet, and I am also not shocked that the broadcast and cable news networks in the US quickly pass along the falsehood without careful varification. The U-S is in a political election campaign cycle, and any falsehood that casts present US policy in a bad or backward light is used for political theater, whether its true or not, sadly.

  3. I smelled a rat when I first read the story. If this idea was a goer, I am sure it would be done differently. ie rather than a 6 hour day it is likely to transition to a 4 day week. There is a future for this but that’s precisely where it currently lies – in the future.

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