6-Hour Work Days! Amazing Maternity Leave! 2015 In Scandinavia Envy

Our friends to the North seem to be living the dream. And we can’t get enough of hearing about Nordic innovations.


During one of the Democratic primary debates this fall, Bernie Sanders spoke favorably of Scandinavia, as compared to the United States, when it comes to treating workers well. “We should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” he said. Onstage, Hillary Clinton reminded him: “We are not Denmark.” On the right, Sanders was pilloried even more: How could we possibly think to learn something from the frozen countries on the top of Europe?


But we can tell you that it seems that we have a lot to learn from countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (and Finland, which we’ll jam into Scandinavia–incorrectly–for conveniences sake). Many of our most-read stories over the past year have been about innovative social policies and experiments being carried out in the Nordic states.

Sweden is experimenting with working fewer hours: Imagine working only 9 to 3 every day. Finland is piloting a basic income program, paying all its citizens a base salary. Both Denmark and Sweden are considering getting rid of cash once and for all. It’s these kinds of innovations that seem to set Scandinavia apart in our heads (we’re even excited about how they manage to survive their winters better than us). You may disagree with the ideas or not be sure you like how they pay for them (with very high taxes), but at least they are trying to do something to change their societies for the better. And, man, do those six-hour days sound nice.

1: Why Sweden Is Shifting To A 6-Hour Workday

Be more focused, have fewer meetings—and then go home early. It sounds like a dream, but it can work.

2: Denmark Might Eliminate Paper Money: Should We Do The Same?


An all-electronic economy would reduce crime and make it easier to adjust the economy. But there are major cons, too. What should we do with all that cash?

3: How Finland’s Exciting Basic Income Experiment Will Work—And What We Can Learn From It

Talking to the scientist designing the national experiment that could change the way governments take care of their citizens.

4: Can Fast-Food Work Ever Be A Decent Job? These Swedish McDonald’s Workers Say Yes

What can a union do for low-wage workers? Comparing the lives of McDonald’s workers in Chicago and Sweden shows the difference organizing can make.


5: Will Sweden Be The First Country To Get Rid Of Cash?

Banks are ripping out ATMs. Even panhandlers accept credit cards. The end of cash in Sweden brings many benefits—and a few concerns.

6: The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter

Residents of Norway view their long dark winters as something to celebrate. How it’s possible to be cheerful for the next four months.

7: How Does Life For Working Parents In Finland Compare To Those In The U.S.?


We talked to two families to see how different life for working parents is in this Scandinavian country versus the U.S.

8: With A Few Simple Changes, Denmark Is Radically Reducing Its Food Waste

In just five years, the country has slashed wasted food by 25%. What can we learn from its success?

9: How Post-Collegiate Life In Scandinavia Compares To The U.S.

Does a tuition-free college experience make for a Scandinavian utopia? A closer look at the lives of postgrads reveals a more nuanced answer.


10: Could The U.S. Ever Adopt A Six-Hour Workday?

Sweden’s latest experiment with a six-hour workday is going well, but could reduced hours ever fly in our workaholic culture?

About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Impact section, formerly Have an idea for a story? You can reach him at mclendaniel [at]