Sweden proposal to allow sex on government time
- 24 February 2017
- From the section Europe
"It's just three little letters," said Per-Erik Muskos jovially, brushing off a suggestion that he is interfering in people's private lives. "S-e-x."
Mr Muskos, a councillor in a small Swedish town, hit the headlines this week after proposing that municipal employees should be allowed a break from their working day to have sex.
"We need to look after each other," he told the BBC. "If it can make relationships better it is worth it."
Luring the young
Mr Muskos's lively idea is only the latest example of officials pushing procreation, as countries around the world find their birth rates in the doldrums.
He is confident his proposal will be approved when put to his fellow councillors in a couple of months' time.
If it does, the municipality's 550 workers, who already get an hour a week paid time to do fitness or wellbeing activities, will also be allowed to go home for some private time with their spouses or partners.
Mr Muskos said there had been some hostility to his idea. "People think we shouldn't talk about it, they say people can fix this by themselves," he said. But he is unapologetic.
The town of Overtornea is in northern Sweden, on the border with Finland, and towns like these are on the frontline of Sweden's declining birth rates.
The population of about 4,500 is steadily falling, while the average age is rising. "Many young people leave the town on the same day they leave school," Mr Muskos said.
But his proposal isn't just about boosting baby-making, it's about enhancing people's lives - particularly women's.
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"People have so many other things to do," he said. "When you are at home you have social media, you have to take your children to football and ice hockey, you don't have time to take care of each other and have time together without children."
He believes his proposal can address this and make the town a more attractive place to live. "If life here gets better then young people might stay," he said.
Sex drive: Five other times authorities pushed procreation
- South Korea's health ministry took drastic action in 2010 to try to encourage staff to go home and multiply - they began turning the building's lights off on one day a month at 19:00 - a relatively early end to the day in a country known for its long working hours. That earned it the sobriquet "Ministry of Matchmaking"
- For the past decade, Russia has instituted an annual "Day of Conception" of 12 September. In some regions, couples who go on to give birth exactly nine months later, on National Day on 12 June, get a prize
- Late last year hotels in Assisi, Italy, began offering a free holiday to couples who conceived there - but efforts by the state to fight falling birth rates have met with criticism
- An array of measures have been adopted to try to halt the plummeting birth rate in Taiwan, including "baby bonuses", government help financing fertility treatment and more subsidies for childcare - along with matchmaking events among unmarried staff at the interior ministry
- In Romania, the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu didn't flinch from using the most authoritarian of methods to push up birth rates from the 1960s - forbidding sex education, outlawing contraception, declaring foetuses "the property of the entire society" and forcing women to undergo regular clinical examinations so pregnancies could be picked up and monitored as early as possible.