This survey analyses what might happen in Sweden if the degree of unionisation continues to fall. What might we learn from the experiences of other countries?
THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT has been of great importance for the political trend in Sweden. One reason has been the high level of unionisation. The result has been a great influence on politics, while responsible actions have been the rule. However, there has been a large decrease in the degree of unionisation – from 84 per cent in 1994 to 68 per cent in 2010. The level is still high in an international perspective, however. In countries with a considerably lower degree of unionisation, open confrontations between the trade union movement and the state have been common. This survey analyses what might happen in Sweden if the degree of unionisation continues to fall. What might we learn from the experiences of other countries?
COOPERATION between LO and the Social Democratic Party is an important explanation for the political dominance of the Social Democrats during the major part of the twentieth century. The strength of the trade unions has also directly contributed to Sweden’s low degree of income inequality. Moreover, trade unions were directly active in the political decision-making by participating in, for example, government commissions and as members on boards of government authorities.
THE DECADES leading up to the 1970’s were characterized by a large generosity in the social insurance system and an increase in the supply of public services. Since then, it has been more about reductions and reforms. This has entailed an increased risk for open political confrontations between the trade union movement and the state.
AN ONGOING reduction in the degree of unionisation will probably lead to the main emphasis in party policy being shifted to the right, to a more conflicting relationship between trade unions and the state and growing tensions between insiders and outsiders on the labour market.
AUTHOR: Johannes Lindvall is Associate Professor (docent) of Political Science at Lund University. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.