Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stay Off Work, Get Paid

Hat tip to Sigmund, Carl and Alfred.
Hat tip to The Himalayan Times.
Crossposted to Common Folk Using Common Sense.

Stay home from work, laze about or travel, while collecting 70 per cent of your salary — an illusion? Not in Sweden, where the government will pay workers to take a guilt-free year off and replace them with long-term unemployed, who will get their foot in the door of the job market.

The profile of the typical volunteer for the programme is a 47-year-old woman who works in the public sector. Birgitta Wiklund, 45, is one such person. She jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself, and in November 2002 she packed her bags and flew off to sunny Thailand with her 10-year-old daughter for three months. "When I got back I was very rested, but starting work again was difficult. Without the government's help I would never have been able to treat myself to this holiday," Wiklund, who works at a local employment office, said. Volunteers are free to travel, study, take care of their kids, build a new home or even startup a company during their year off — anything they want as long as they are not gainfully employed.

On average, 52 per cent of unemployed people who fill in for someone on sabbatical are offered a full-time job in the company, according to the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation. That is however just a drop in the bucket, what with more than 250,000 Swedes currently out of work in a country of nine million. In July, unemployment hit 5.6 per cent of the workforce, a figure that would be enviable in most other European countries but which is a nightmare for the Swedish state: the country's generous cradle-to-grave welfare benefits are funded by high income taxes, and fewer workers means less revenues.

Wow. Nice work if you can get it.

Some facts on Sweden (from the CIA World Fackbook):
- Land area: slightly larger than California
- Median population age: 40.6 years
- Life expectancy at birth (total population): 80.4 years
- Religions: Lutheran 87%
- Government type: constitutional monarchy
- Tax rates: local tax of 26-35%, plus a national income tax of 20%
- Princess Madeleine Thérèse Amelie Josephin Bernadotte, Duchess of Haelsingland and Gaestrikland, 24-year-old daughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia (OK, so I'm a pig - sue me)

Now comes the $64,000 question:

Is this what you want for the United States (the TAX RATES, not the Princess)? Is it worth giving up 50% of your annual income (outside of income from capital or income from business) for the ability to take a year off work and still get 70% of your paycheck? Do you really desire cradle-to-grave welfare from the government, welfare that you actually pay yourself through high taxes? Remember that NO government ever gives you anything for free - you, yourself, pay for it in one way or another.


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