Demographics may be destiny after all. At least, that's the approach of one Swedish lawmaker who has proposed a fairly inventive version of work-life balance: weekly, hour-long sex breaks.
Yes, Erik Muskos would like to codify the nooner.
Muskos is a councilman from Overtornea, a town of about 4,500 residents. According to reporting from both the New York Times and local outlets, he has proposed giving the town's 550 municipal employees the right to use their existing hour-per-week fitness break to go home and procreate. (Warning: this link to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is not safe for work.)
"I think many people find it embarrassing," he said to the Aftonbladet, "and I think that's a pity."
In his motion, Muskos also urged that the town consider Sweden's demographic needs.
"Childbirth should be encouraged," he said in his motion. "When sex is also an excellent form of exercise with documented positive effects on well-being, the municipality should kill two birds with one stone and encourage employees to use their fitness hour to go home and have sex with their partner."
Muskos's proposal has already received international attention after making waves across Sweden, but it isn't entirely out of place.
Sweden is well known for having one of the most populist and worker-friendly states in the world. In addition to its generous welfare system and reform-based prisons, the country also has very strict workers' rights laws. Everyone gets 480 days of parental leave, guaranteed health care, five weeks of annual vacation and a daily break for coffee and pastries (the fika).
In this environment, perhaps its small wonder that one councilman would suggest that employees get a chance to duck out for some extremely personal time.
And, titillation aside, Muskos's idea might actually have practical merit.
Like most European countries, Sweden increasingly faces a dismal demographic reality. Although stronger than much of Europe, the nation's fertility rate has fallen below the numbers it needs to replace its own population (1.89 when, for a country of its status, it would need a fertility rate of 2.08). The government expects that to continue falling, and that "every fourth person [will] become a pensioner in the next 50 years."
As seedy as it may seem to have state-sponsored sex breaks, the opportunity for couples to sneak off for a semi-illicit lunch hour might actually have some impact. At the very least, for a country searching for ways to encourage new parents, it can't hurt.
And then there's productivity. Research suggests that not only would vigorous afternoon "us time" be good for boosting the birth rate, it may also actually help the bottom line. Maybe.
One study, published in 2013 by the German Institute for the Study of Labor, found a correlation between sexual activity and worker's wages.
"Those employees having sex more than four times a week receive statistically significant highest wages," the authors wrote. "Moreover, the outcomes suggested that wage returns to sexual activity are statistically significant [sic] higher for those between 26 and 50 years of age… [and] higher for those health-impaired employees who are sexually active."
The authors linked this to the connection between sexual activity and overall personal well-being, which indeed can have a profound impact on productivity. Numerous studies have found that, in general, happier and more fulfilled people tend to have better careers and earn more money.
Does that mean that Muskos is necessarily on to something?
Maybe, maybe not. It's true that Sweden, like much of Europe, needs to boost its fertility rate, and better sex lives might help that happen. Although in an age of effective contraception, it's worth asking just how much more the amount of sex really matters to procreation.
What's more, productivity and wages might well get a boost if everyone started walking around at 3 p.m. with that extra spring in his step. Then again, if the question is, "How can everyone start having better sex lives?" are government sanctioned breaks really the answer?
After all, it's hard to think of anything less sexy than a permission slip from the boss.