When Work Ethic Disapears

A while back, Megan McArdle observed that Sweden's semi-socialist state performed well for a number of years, riding on residual work ethic in the system, a sort of cultural bank that eventually will be overdrawn.   According to Michael Moynihan, it appears this point has been reached:

Sweden does have the highest rate of workers on sick leave in
Europe, despite being consistently ranked by the OECD as Europe's
healthiest country. As my former colleague Johan Norberg has observed,
sick leave payments"”which, at the time of the last election, were as
high as 80 percent of a worker's salary"”accounted for a staggering 16
percent of the government budget.

Wow!  That is really staggering.  And not at all surprising.  Even in this country, I can't tell you how many people there are who consider a permanent disability to be roughly equivalent to hitting the lottery.  Income for life, without working!  I even had one woman who sued my company for actually (as the law requires) reporting her salary to the tax authorities rather than paying her under the table as she had hoped.  By creating evidence she could work, I endangered her disability application that was in the works (she kept a set of crutches in her car which she only used when on business related to this application).

The government figure of 7 percent unemployment was repeatedly mocked
by both former Prime Minister Göran Persson's detractors and allies. A
study by McKinsey Global estimated the true figure"”which included those
on sick leave, in early retirement, in jobs programs"”to be between 15
and 17 percent. Jan Edling, a researcher with the Social Democratic
trade union LO, estimated the total figure of unemployed to be 19.7
percent. (Edling's report was suppressed and he was himself offered
"early retirement.") The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise said the
figure was 16.5 percent. Other studies ranged from 12 percent to 18

The author also makes a point I have tried to make a number of times -- that the ability of the US economy to integrate and give opportunity to poor immigrants is a huge positive, in terms of assessing relative merits of different economic systems on the poor, that is never considered when evaluating European welfare states:
And the problem of unemployment in Sweden loops back around to the
difficulty Sweden has had in integrating its immigrants into the job

As Swedish economist Esra Karakaya wrote in Aftonbladet in 2006,
the unemployment rate among immigrants in Sweden is 29 percent"”another
staggering figure, in marked contrast to the joblessness rate among
immigrants in this country. This, Karakaya convincingly argues, is
"because the labor market is governed by rigid job security laws" that
are incompatible with a globalized economy. Indeed, a recent study
tracking the fortunes of Somali immigrants in Sweden and in Minneapolis
(reported here in Swedish, summarized here in English)
found that its sample group in the U.S. started approximately 800
companies. In Sweden, they managed only 38. In a recent editorial in
the newspaper Expressen, Nima Sanandaji, a Kurdish immigrant, argued that
it was "important to study how the Swedish system of benefits, taxes
and [regulated] job market leads the same group of people to be
successful on one side of the Atlantic and to social poverty and
dependence in Sweden."

By the way, when you do the analysis right, the poorest quintile in Sweden does about the same as in the US.  The difference is that in 10 years, the poorest quintile in Sweden will still be the same folks, while the poorest quintile in the US will have moved up, to be replaced with new immigrants.