Two days ago we celebrated Mid-summer, a day when people in the northern hemisphere enjoy the longest hours of day light! However, Mid-summer is not the pinnacle of summer; instead, it symbolizes the start of summer, the season of vacation!
History of Vacation in Sweden
It is self-evident that paid vacation or annual leave is beyond imagination before the industrial revolution, simply because there existed no such “working class”. At that time, from the chilling Lappland in the North to Skåne in the Southern coast, farmers were working restlessly in their field from sunrise until dusk. Of course there were permanent dwellers in the city, but a large portions of them were monks!
Medieval Stockholm has a population of 5000 – 7000, walkinstockholm.se
Then it came to the latter half of 1800s, when rapid industrialization and urbanization stormed the nation, driving thousands and thousands of people into big cities such as Stockholm and Goteborg. In those factories, workers were able to earn more money, but also took less rest as a compensate. It takes nearly half a century for the general public to recognize the linkage between vacation and health of employees, leading to the legitimization which guarantees a minimum of 2 weeks paid vacation days in the 1930s. With the popularization of the concept of paid vacation, in 1936 the first nation-wise “Leisure Time exhibition” (In Swedish, Fritiden) was held, which is an event for people to know more and choose wisely what to do during the vacation that they are entitled to.
Fritiden 1936 in Ystad, fritidsdsvetarna.com
Public Holidays and Vacation in Modern Sweden
Nowadays, Sweden is the country with one of the longest public holidays in the entire world. These holidays include:
1) 5 weeks of paid vacation
2) 26 public holidays
3) 6 defect holidays (half-day off)
4) 480-day of parental leave
5) Several long weekends
(if the public holiday falls on a Thursday, then the Friday becomes a day-off by default)
Number of minimum days of mandatory annual leave by country, wikipedia.org
Remember, five-week vacation is a minimum; it is more common for companies, universities such as KTH and research institutes to grant six weeks of vacation for their employees. As far as I know, most Swedes take their vacation after celebrating Mid-summer: the weather is warm now, and the time is also perfectly in line with the school holiday of pupils. Starting from Mid-summer, they could probably in a resort island, beaches in the South, or even their own summer houses in the countryside: anywhere but not the office!
Influence of Vacation
Of course I notice the huge contrast between Sweden and Hong Kong, the place where I come from. In Hong Kong, the minimum annual leave is 7 days; what’s more, if one is categorized as labor-class, he is subjected to six working days per week, instead of five. To be honest, I was not used to, even with discontent in the first few months.
For me as a new-comer, my first feeling is inconvenience: tax agency, banks, even the language school only open a few hours (usually 10 AM to 14 PM) during Monday to Friday. Hence, I need to plan everything before so that I can squeeze some time in my schedule in order to have my ID card, bank account, Swedish class registration settled. Certainly it could be even more inconvenient for those who have full-time job.
High living cost is another a direct consequence of long vacation. It is especially manifest in service sector, such as the catering industry. For example, the GDP of Sweden is twice that of Hong Kong, but the cost of a meal is around 3 to 3.5 times of Hong Kong! That’s why it is more popular to bring your own lunch, instead of eating in a restaurant.
Wall of microwaves is a unique phenomenon in Swedish universities, ths.kth.se
But when you live here longer, the advantages of taking long vacation begin to emerge. In the personal level, vacation makes us healthier both physically and mentally, being able to work more efficiently, which in terms also benefits the employers. From my personal experience in Sweden, the above statement is absolutely true: no matter where I am, I am firstly impressed, then get used to the excellent attitude of the locals: they are always professional, helpful, friendly and patient.
As a consequence, who doesn’t want to live and work in such environment? In 2017, Sweden ranks number one in Good Country Index, among those indices there are the Best Country For Business by Forbes, the 6th place in Global Competitiveness by World Economic Forum……Our society is composed and built by each individual. Just like water, minerals and air, taking good care of these “human resources” will eventually lead to a more sustainable society.
Though there is no such Utopia on Earth, the way of vacation in Sweden truly inspires me how a “good” state should be, which I think is critical in the age of political waves in the globe.
Of course this blog cannot be nested above vacuum. Below are parts of the links that I took reference from:
Mid-summer’s cover photo from kthinternationstudents on Instagram, photo by Tomas Albrecht
History and Facts of Annual Leave in Sweden:
1. About Medieval Stockholm: walkinstockholm.se/…/stockholms-historia.htm
2. About Fritiden: fritidsvetarna.com/…/Utstallningen_Fritiden.htm
3. Public holidays in Sweden: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_annual_leave_by_country
Ranking of Sweden:
2. Best Country For Business by Forbes: forbes.com/…/sweden-heads-the-best-countries-for-business-for-2017
3. Global competitiveness: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-competitiveness-report-2016-2017-1