Efficiency up, turnover down: Sweden experiments with six-hour working day

A trial of shorter days for nurses at a Gothenburg care home is inspiring others across Scandinavia to cut back, but the cost of improving staff wellbeing is high

By  in Gothenburg

A Swedish retirement home may seem an unlikely setting for an experiment about the future of work, but a small group of elderly-care nurses in Sweden have made radical changes to their daily lives in an effort to improve quality and efficiency.

In February the nurses switched from an eight-hour to a six-hour working day for the same wage – the first controlled trial of shorter hours since a rightward political shift in Sweden a decade ago snuffed out earlier efforts to explore alternatives to the traditional working week.

“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”

The Svartedalens experiment is inspiring others around Sweden: at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University hospital, orthopaedic surgery has moved to a six-hour day, as have doctors and nurses in two hospital departments in Umeå to the north. And the trend is not confined to the public sector: small businesses claim that a shorter day can increase productivity while reducing staff turnover.

At Svartedalens, the trial is viewed as a success, even if, with an extra 14 members of staff hired to cope with the shorter hours and new shift patterns, it is costing the council money. Ann-Charlotte Dahlbom Larsson, head of elderly care at the home, says staff wellbeing is better and the standard of care is even higher.

“Since the 1990s we have had more work and fewer people – we can’t do it any more,” she says. “There is a lot of illness and depression among staff in the care sector because of exhaustion – the lack of balance between work and life is not good for anyone.”

Pettersson, one of 82 nurses at Svartedalens, agrees. Caring for elderly people, some of whom have dementia, demands constant vigilance and creativity, and with a six-hour day she can sustain a higher standard of care. “You cannot allow elderly people to become stressed, otherwise it turns into a bad day for everyone,” she says.

After a century in which working hours were gradually reduced, holidays increased and retirement reached earlier, there has been an increase in hours worked for the first time in history, says Roland Paulsen, a researcher in business administration at the University of Lund. People are working harder and longer, he says – but this is not necessarily for the best.

“For a long time politicians have been competing to say we must create more jobs with longer hours – work has become an end in itself,” he says. “But productivity has doubled since the 1970s, so technically we even have the potential for a four-hour working day. It is a question of how these productivity gains are distributed. It did not used to be utopian to cut working hours – we have done this before.”

Continue reading Efficiency up, turnover down: Sweden experiments with six-hour working day

Footprints: Norway in Pakistan

BY MIRZA KHURRAM SHAHZAD

IT’S just a leisurely drive from Islamabad, some 140 kilometres on the Grand Trunk road.

Leave the GT road in the middle of Kharian town in Gujrat district and pass through a narrow road that winds through a busy bazaar and eventually comes out in a welcoming landscape of acres and acres of lush green wilderness. Pass behind a military base as the road takes you deeper into the rural area. Here, tractors and trailers run with noisy engines and Attaullah Essakhelvi’s Punjabi and Seraiki songs blare from their speakers.

One expects to end up in a traditional Punjab village with smoke curling up from the earthen hearths, buffaloes grazing, and goats and sheep running around. But there is a surprise in store. There is no village here.

Instead, there are sprawling villas as you enter the main street. Teenage boys are in fine trousers and T-shirts and have spiky hairstyle. Luxury cars are parked in and outside the villas, air conditioners are installed on the top storeys and generators are running to provide electricity during loadshedding hours.

This is a mini Norway in Pakistan.

Out of around the 2,000 people who officially live in Aalam Pur Gondlan village, 400 are settled in Norway. Others have gone to the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Canada, Italy and the Gulf to earn a living.

This migration to Europe and other parts of the world has completely changed the dynamics of life in this village, where now only 400 people live permanently. The majority is in Norway, whose total population is a little more than five million. This fact has made Aalam Pur Gondlan a point of interest for the Norwegians as well as those inhabiting neighbouring villages. The place is frequently visited by Norwegian diplomats.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1134385

Shanghai Cooperation Countries may be able to use Pakistani ports

SCO states may be able to use Pakistani ports

ISLAMABAD: Member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz­stan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — may be able to use Pakistani ports to get access to trade routes through the Arabian Sea once China-Pakistan Eco­no­mic Corridor (CPEC) is completed and becomes operational.

Speaking at the Economic and Trade Ministers meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Xian, the capital of China’s Shaanxi province on Wed­nesday, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan said that Pakistan’s trade strategy focuses on developing linkages with our neighbours, leveraging our geographical location and capitalising on regional connectivity initiatives.

Pakistan has an observer status at the SCO and is scheduled to become full member state in January 2016 which will provide new impetus to Pakistan’s relations with member states.

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1207404

Hungary’s treatment of refugees is shocking and unacceptable, says UN

  • – — – –

UN secretary general expresses outrage over use of teargas and water cannon, as thousands of people enter Croatia

The UN secretary general has condemned the Hungarian government’s treatment of refugees on its southern border, arguing that the use of teargas, pepper spray and water cannon on people fleeing war and hardship is not acceptable.

Hungary triggered outrage from the international community on Wednesday after firing gas canisters and spraying water at crowds of frustrated refugees who had briefly broken through a border gate in protest at being prevented from crossing from Serbia.

With their path north from Serbia into Hungary – and the European Union – blocked since Tuesday, many migrants and refugees have simply turned west to the Croatian frontier. More than 5,000 people have entered since Hungary’s crackdown, Croatian police said.

Read more » The Guardian
See more » http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/17/hungary-refugees-ban-ki-moon-eu-serbia

More » Al Jazeera

Nepal to stay secular, proposal for a Hindu nation rejected

By PTI

KATHMANDU: A proposal to declare Nepal a Hindu state was overwhelmingly rejected by the constituent assembly on Monday which reaffirmed that the Hindu-majority nation will remain secular.

The proposal made by pro-Hindu National Democratic Party Nepal to amend the constitution to make Nepal a Hindu state was rejected by more than two-thirds of lawmakers who declared that the country should remain secular as the constituent assembly resumed voting on individual articles of the draft constitution.

After assembly chairman Subas Chandra Nembang announced that the proposal has been rejected, Kamal Thapa, leader of the National Democratic Party Nepal, demanded split voting.

Thapa’s proposal for a vote received the support of only 21 lawmakers in the 601-seat constituent assembly. As the CA rules requires 61 members to begin the split voting, the voting was not done.

The erstwhile Hindu state, Nepal was declared a secular state in 2007 after the success of the people’s movement of 2006 that saw the abolition of monarchy.

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA
Read more » http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Nepal-to-stay-secular-proposal-for-a-Hindu-nation-rejected/articleshow/48959256.cms

What is behind the coup in Burkina Faso?

The BBC’s Lamine Konkobo looks at the issues behind the coup in Burkina Faso, where members of the presidential guard have overthrown the interim government.

A new president was due to be elected next month to replace long-serving ruler Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising last year.

Why has there been a coup?

Members of the presidential guard (RSP), set up by President Compaore, say they were unhappy with the new electoral law banning candidates linked to last year’s bid to extend the president’s time in office. It was that attempt which triggered his overthrow in October 2014.

But what is really bothering the RSP is its future. Soldiers were worried that the election of a new president would spell the end of the unit.

What is the presidential guard?

The presidential guard is an elite unit of around 1,300 soldiers loyal to Mr Compaore.

He set it up to ensure his own protection in the wake of the 1987 killing of his predecessor, and close ally, Thomas Sankara during a coup which led to Mr Compaore taking over.

It is a well-trained and well-equipped group of soldiers who have often acted independently from the country’s army, and this coup is not necessarily supported by the wider military.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34277045