From: (Johann Opitz)

Socialist Sweden: high costs of sick leave

Many Swedes sick and tired of high costs of sick leave

... as Swedes return from country cottages and Mediterranean beaches and prepare for an election Sept. 15, they are grappling with a vexing problem: One of every six working-age Swedes is off work because of illness or injury. The number of people on government-paid sick leave has doubled in five years, and welfare benefits for the sick and disabled now exceed the government's military and education budgets combined. In all, about 340,000 Swedes -- one in every 26 of a population of 8.9 million -- are getting sick pay from the National Social Insurance Board, a third for longer than a year. An additional 470,000 are on disability pensions -- early-retirement benefits paid by the government to those who stop working before the retirement age of 65. These often are bigger than regular pensions. ... Opponents, led by the center-right Moderate and Christian Democratic parties, say the government is looking for a cure in all the wrong places. The problem, they say, is not workers' health but cushy welfare policies that are eroding the work ethic. Whatever the explanation, the cost -- about $12 billion a year, or 16 percent of this year's national budget -- worries officials. ... Sick leave amounts to 80 percent of a worker's pay. The maximum benefit is 623 kronor a day, or about $65. After taxes that adds up to about $1,500 a month -- about what many workers get for four 40-hour weeks. Sick leave pay is subject to income tax, which ranges from 30 to 60 percent. ... Opponents of the generous policies say that paid sick leave has come to be seen as an entitlement rather than a benefit and that frivolous claims are partly to blame for the rise in sick leave since 1997, when only about 170,000 Swedes eceived payments. ...

Parent offended by lesson in vocabulary

Use of a word that sounds like a racial slur has landed a New Hanover County teacher in the middle of a controversy. Stephanie Bell, a fourth-grade teacher at Williams Elementary School, taught the word "niggardly" to her class last week in an effort to improve her students' vocabularies. Now, a parent wants her fired. Although the word means stingy, Akwana Walker said it was inapproprate to use it because it sounds similar to a racial slur. She said she doesn't think fourth-graders can distinguish between the two words. "My daughter told me what that word was, and I told her not to complete that part of her homework," said Ms. Walker, who is black.


Johann Opitz <> RKBA!

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