Articol in International Herald Tribune

STOCKHOLM: In a world of vacations, Swedes play in a leisurely league of their own.

Take Magnus Engren. After spending three weeks in July split between a summer cottage and a hometown visit, he is now back at his work as an investigator at the Swedish tax agency, „completely rested,” he said.

But he is far from done vacationing. This autumn, Engren, 41, will go for two weeks to Spain with his family. Then there is another week around Christmas. And another in the spring.

„It gives you a chance to recharge your batteries,” he said with a smile.

Engren is no exception. According to a recent EU study, carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, he is the rule. Swedish workers topped the European vacation rankings, entitled to an average of 33 paid vacations days in 2006 – close to 7 weeks, not counting public holidays.

In the face of this kind of global competition, some are now saying that Swedes must seriously consider giving up some of their cherished summer days off.

„When people realize the effect that not working has on their pensions, on health care and on consumption – especially compared with other countries – I have no doubt they will work more,” said Dick Kling, an economist with the free-market-oriented Timbro institute. „We will see longer working weeks and shorter vacations.”

But Engren, the tax inspector, had his doubts. He thinks the tradition to take long vacations is too ingrained to be changed easily. Rather, he said, the rest of the world should use Sweden as an example to follow, and relax a little.