Living and working in Sweden

16 August 2021

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States, which included the UK prior to its withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context are the EU’s policy priorities for a European Green Deal, a digital future, an economy that works for people, promoting and strengthening European democracy. To help repair the economic and social damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU leaders have also agreed on a recovery plan that will lead the way out of the crisis and lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe. The EU’s long-term budget, coupled with NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost the recovery, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe. 

The European Semester provides a framework for the coordination of economic policies across the EU. It allows Member States to discuss their economic and budget plans and monitor progress at specific times throughout the year. For 2021, the European Semester will be temporarily adapted to coordinate it with the Recovery and Resilience Facility to address the impact of the crisis caused by the pandemic. As part of this, Member States are encouraged to submit national reform programmes and recovery and resilience plans in a single integrated document. These plans will provide an overview of the reforms and investments that Member States will undertake in line with the objectives of the Facility.

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Sweden: 67% of people receive the recognition they deserve for their work

Living and working in Sweden and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Three rounds of the survey have been carried out to date: in April 2020 when most Member States were in lockdown, in July 2020 when society and economies were slowly reopening, and in March 2021 as countries dealt again with various levels of lockdown and vaccine rollout. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, democracy and trust, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, the quality of public services, support measures and vaccinations during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are now available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in Sweden.

 

The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to Sweden:

Research carried out prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Sweden

Correspondents in Sweden

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

Oxford Research AB

Eurofound Management Board members from Sweden

EEurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. Read more

Viktoria Bergstrom Ministry of Labour

Patrik Karlsson Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

Hakan Gustavsson Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at information@eurofound.europa.eu

Living in Sweden

Quality of life

Quality of life

Based on the selected indicators in Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), quality of life in Sweden is high. All the indicators are above their EU28 averages. Sweden ranks highest among the EU28 countries in the level of optimism about one’s own future, with 85% of respondents feeling optimistic in 2016 compared with the EU28 average of 64%. Sweden is also the top-ranking EU country in regard to feeling free to decide how to live one’s life, at 58% of respondents versus 26% in the EU in 2016. Furthermore, respondents in Sweden reported a very high level of participation in sports or other physical exercise. Overall, 73% said they did sports at least once a week, compared to the significantly lower EU28 average of 42%. 

  2003200720112016
Life satisfactionMean (1-10)7.98.38.07.9
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)8.08.27.87.8
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---85%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---83%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--70%73%
In general, how is your health?Very good-27%27%28%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-676464
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty17%14%18%11%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--55%58%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---23%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---14%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

The prevalence of work–life balance related problems is lower in Sweden than on average in the EU. For instance, 55% of respondents in Sweden reported being too tired from work to do household jobs at least several times a month in 2016, which was lower than the respective EU28 average of 59%. Similarly, 25% of respondents in Sweden had difficulties to fulfil family responsibilities because of work at least several times a month in 2016, which was significantly lower than the corresponding EU28 average of 38%. Furthermore, 12% of respondents found it difficult to concentrate at work because of family responsibilities in 2016, again lower than the EU28 average of 19%.

The gender-specific breakdowns reveal that women in Sweden report work–life balance problems more often than men. For example, 66% of women were too tired from work to do household jobs at least several times a month in 2016, significantly higher than the 44% of men.

  2003200720112016
(At least several times a month)   
I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal48%46%54%55%
Men42%42%48%44%
Women53%51%61%66%
      
It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal26%18%24%25%
Men23%17%21%21%
Women29%20%28%31%
      
I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal9%5%7%12%
Men9%5%5%11%
Women8%5%10%14%

Quality of society

Quality of society

The majority of the indicators about quality of society in Sweden are better than their respective EU28 averages. Overall, 24% of respondents in Sweden participated in unpaid voluntary work at least once a month in 2016, significantly higher than the EU28 average of 10%. Furthermore, the Social Exclusion Index score of 1.6 in 2016 was the lowest among all the EU countries (on a scale of 1–5 where a higher value means a higher incidence of social exclusion). It was also lower than the EU28 average of 2.1 in 2016.

However, perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups are higher in Sweden than on average in the EU. In 2016, 45% of respondents in Sweden perceived a lot of tension between different racial and ethnic groups, which was higher than the EU28 average of 41%.

  2003200720112016
Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-1.51.91.6
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)6.46.86.46.6
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% 'at least once a month'--21%24%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'23%11%21%20%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'43%37%36%45%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---62%

Quality of public services 

Quality of public services 

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

The majority of the quality ratings for public services in Sweden are above their EU28 averages, apart from the perceived quality of long-term care services which is slightly below the EU28 average (6.1 compared to 6.2 in the EU28 in 2016, on a scale of 1–10). The quality rankings have also remained fairly stable in recent years. For example, the perceived quality of public transport stood at 7.0 in 2016, similar to the 2007 and 2011 score of 6.8 in both years.

The state pension system in Sweden received the lowest quality rating of 5.5 in 2016. However, this score was still higher than the EU28 average of 5.0 in 2016.
 

  2003200720112016
Health servicesMean (1-10)6.87.67.37.3
Education systemMean (1-10)6.87.47.07.0
Public transportMean (1-10)6.76.86.87.0
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-7.67.37.7
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--5.76.1
Social housingMean (1-10)--6.46.0
State pension systemMean (1-10)5.45.65.35.5

Working life in Sweden

About

  • Author: Anna-Karin Gustafsson
  • Institution: Oxford Research
  • Published on: Monday, August 16, 2021

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Sweden. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.

 

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Highlights – Working life in 2020

Author: Anna-Karin Gustafsson 
Institution: Oxford Research AB
Highlights updated on: 16 March 2021
Working paper: Sweden: Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the economy, albeit to a lesser extent than in many other Member States. However, the Swedish labour market model has coped well with the crisis, with only a few adjustments. The major bargaining round in 2020 was postponed, and negotiations were very difficult because some sectors were in crisis while others performed at their pre-pandemic level or even better. Despite this, the bargaining round resulted in collectively agreed wage increases of 5.4% for the next 2.5 years and new collective agreements in almost all sectors, without a single working day being lost because of disputes.

The government and social partners worked closely together to reduce the impact on businesses. Measures that were introduced included the new short-time work system, which was put in place quickly through tripartite efforts. The government and social partners also worked jointly to provide support not only for employers but also for employees who were made redundant as a result of the crisis, for example, by expanding unemployment insurance and addressing restructuring.

However, although Sweden has fared comparatively well from a European perspective in terms of the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the same cannot be said for health outcomes. In 2020, Sweden had one of Europe’s highest COVID-19 death rates per capita. Although there is no apparent direct link between the health outcomes and the economic outcomes of the pandemic, both issues will undoubtedly continue to be the two main topics on the political agenda, as well as on the agendas of the social partners, throughout 2021 and probably beyond.

Other issues on the table for 2021 include the ongoing drafting of new labour legislation based on the bipartite agreement on employment protection signed in the autumn of 2020 and the subsequent process of implementation. This is likely to raise other questions related to employment protection, such as if and how unemployment insurance should be reduced after having been made more extensive and generous during the pandemic, and if the spike in trade union membership (+58,000 new members) was a temporary and short-lived reaction to the pandemic or if the downwards trend in union membership rate is in fact reversing.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Sweden

 

2019

2020

% (point) change 2012 –2019

% (point) change 2019 –2020

 

Sweden

EU27

Sweden

EU27

Sweden

EU27

Sweden

EU27

GDP per capita

43,920

27,970

42,370

26,230

8.8%

11.5%

-3.5%

-6.2%

Unemployment rate – total

6.8

6.7

8.3

7.1

-1.2

-4.1

1.5

0.4

Unemployment rate – women

7

7

8.3

7.3

-0.7

-4.0

1.3

0.3

Unemployment rate – men

6.7

6.4

8.3

6.8

-1.5

-4.3

1.6

0.4

Unemployment rate – youth

20.1

15

23.9

16.8

-3.5

-8.7

3.8

1.8

Employment rate – total

82.9

73.4

82.5

72.9

2.6

2.4

-0.4

-0.5

Employment rate – women

81.2

67.9

80.3

67.5

3.3

3.0

-0.9

-0.4

Employment rate – men

84.6

79

84.6

78.3

2.0

1.8

0.0

-0.7

Employment rate – youth

55

39.4

52.1

37.9

2.4

-0.4

-2.9

-1.5

Source: Eurostat – Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012–2020 (both based on sdg_08_10). Unemployment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–74 years, % active population) and youth (15–24 years) % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age – annual average (15–64 years, unit % total population, employment indicator active population) % [lfsi_emp_a].

Background

Background

Economic and labour market context

Sweden has an extensive welfare state characterised by universal coverage, high levels of social protection and a large public sector. The labour market is regulated mainly through collective agreements without interference from the government.

Between 2012 and 2019, Swedish real GDP increased by 8.8%. During this time, the unemployment rate decreased for all categories considered, in particular for young people, falling by 3.5 percentage points in this group and reaching a rate of 20.1% in 2019, when total unemployment was 6.8%. The employment rate over the seven years was above the EU average in all categories. Youth employment rate was 55% in 2019, well above the EU average of 41.8% for the same year. In 2020, due to the pandemic, GDP contracted by 3.5%, overall unemployment rate grew by 1.5 pp, but the most notable increase was in the category of youth with a 3.8 pp increase compared to 2019.

More information on:

Legal context

The Employment Protection Act (LAS 1982:80) regulates the relationship between employees and employers in the public and private sector. It describes different types of employment and the rules that apply when employment is terminated. The regulation is subject to an ongoing reform process, whereby the government is in the process of adapting a bipartite agreement signed by the social partners into law. The government is currently looking into employment protection and associated unemployment insurance issues, a new public organisation for restructuring support that will offer and finance basic adjustment and competence support, and a new and parallel public student grant.

The Codetermination Act (MBL 1976:580) regulates collective agreements, employees’ right of trade union representation and the right to join a trade union or employers’ organisation. It describes the rights and obligations during negotiations and conflict.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) is the labour inspectorate. The Swedish Work Environment Authority ensures that the Work Environment Act (AML 1977:1160) and the Working Hours Act (ATL 1982:673) are followed.

Industrial relations context

The main agreement regulating collective bargaining between social partners was set in 1938 (Saltsjöbadsavtalet). The agreement gives employers and trade unions the right to determine wages and employment conditions in collective agreements. Self-regulation through collective bargaining is a strong tradition on the Swedish labour market.

Until the 1980s, bargaining mainly took place at the central level. But after an economically turbulent period due to the deregulation of the financial markets, the high inflation rate and no real wage growth, there was a subsequent shift in bargaining from the central to the sectoral level. Bargaining at the local level is also becoming increasingly common.

The Industrial Cooperation and Negotiation Agreement (Industriavtalet) has set the norm for wages in collective agreements since 1997. The agreement is intended to ensure that wages are sustained at levels that take into account Swedish productivity and international competitiveness. The social partners in the industrial sector set a joint cost mark, which they promote to the wider labour market. This has generally been successful, although there is no guarantee that social partners in other sectors will adhere to the cost mark. In 2020 and early 2021, after circa a six month delay due to the COVID-19 crisis, around 500 collective agreements were negotiated. The Industrial Cooperation and Negotiation Agreement of 2020 set the norm at a 5.4% wage increase over three years, which became the standard also for other sectors for the rest of the year (National Mediation Office, 2020).

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Sweden.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

Public authorities facilitate dispute resolution and make sure that laws are followed. They do not interfere with the collective bargaining tradition between social partners. The Ministry of Employment is responsible for labour market policy, working life policy and integration in Sweden. Important public authorities that lie under the Ministry of Employment are the Swedish Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen), which rules on labour-related disputes, and the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket), the labour inspectorate that monitors and promotes health and safety measures at work. The Swedish National Mediation Office (Medlingsinstitutet) also lies under the Ministry of Employment. Its role is to mediate in labour disputes and promote efficient wage formation processes.

Representativeness

In Sweden, industrial relations are based on trust and mutual understanding and the tradition of a self-regulating system of collective agreements is firmly established. The government’s legislative role is limited and there is no formal procedure for recognising employers’ or employees’ organisations. Instead, decisions regarding participating parties in bargaining processes are made through custom and practice.

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s representativeness study of the cross-industry social partners or in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

Trade unions have a traditionally strong role in the Swedish labour market. The right to become a member of a trade union is regulated in the Codetermination Act. Since the 1938 Saltsjöbadsavtalet agreement, trade unions and employers have had the right to negotiate wages and working conditions in collective agreements.

While trade union membership has declined since the beginning of the twenty-first century, trade union membership in Sweden is still high by international standards. At the start of the twenty-first century, trade union density was around 80%. However, there was a large membership loss in 2007 when the government increased fees for the unemployment insurance funds, which are connected to the trade unions. According to the new regulations, the fees were to be based on the level of unemployment among the members. This meant that unions with higher levels of unemployment had higher fees.

In addition, unemployment rose more among blue-collar workers than among white-collar workers during the European financial crisis, meaning that blue-collar union fees increased disproportionately to those of white-collar workers. As a result, blue-collar union membership fell by seven percentage points between 2008 and 2014, whereas white-collar union membership rose by two percentage points over the same period (Kjellberg, 2018). The fee differentiation was abolished again in 2014. Since 2008, the overall trade union density has been stable at around 70%.

Trade union membership and trade union density

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Source

Trade union density in terms of active employees

62.2

61.7

60.8

60.1

59.6

n.a.

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database (2021)

Trade union density in terms of active employees

69%

69%

69%

68%

68%

69%

Kjellberg (2019b, 2021b)

Trade union membership in 1,000s 2701 2727 2751 2764 2757 n.a. OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021
Trade union membership in 1,000s 2,926 2,955 2,971 2,972 2,981 3,051 Kjellberg (2017, 2019a)

Source: OECD/AIAIS (2021); Kjellberg (2019a, b, 2021b)

Note: membership data only covers active members. That means unemployed members are included but not pensioners, students or self-employed (except from 2015 and onwards when self-employed people organised by The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (Saco) are also included in the data).

Main trade union confederations and federations

On the employee side, there are three main peak-level social partner organisations:

  • The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen i Sverige, LO) had 1.25 million active members in 2017. LO is mostly associated with blue-collar workers.
  • The Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (Tjänstemännens Centralorganisation, TCO) represented 1.09 million active members in 2017. TCO is mostly associated with white-collar workers.
  • The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (Sveriges Akademikers Centralorganisation, SACO) represented around 533,500 active members in 2017. SACO is mostly associated with university graduate employees.

Main trade union confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Active members (2019)

Involved in collective bargaining

Swedish Trade Union Confederation

LO

1,222,830

Yes, indirectly

Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees

TCO

1,109,766

Yes, indirectly

Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations

SACO

546,515

Yes, indirectly

Source: Kjellberg (2019a)

Trade unions are demarcated by sector. There are approximately 60 trade unions, most of which are members of one of the three major trade union confederations mentioned above.

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Membership in an employers’ organisation is voluntary and usually includes the signing of a collective agreement, although exceptions exist (e.g. in the commerce sector). In contrast to the trade unions’ declining memberships, employers’ organisations have not experienced any similar membership loss and have remained at a stable level for the past two decades. Today, employers’ organisation density is at a higher level than trade union density (Kjellberg, 2019).

Employers’ organisations – membership and density

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Source

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

n.a.

n.a..

60%.

n.a.

n.a

OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

 

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

n.a

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

 

83%

 

European Company Survey (ECS) 2013/ 2019

Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees

88%

88%

88%

90%

88%.

Kjellberg (2019b,2021b)

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*

82%

82%

82%

83%

82%

Kjellberg (2019a, 2021b)

* Percentage of employees working in an establishment that is a member of any employers’ organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

On the employer side, there are three main confederations: one for the private sector and two for the public sector. The largest private employers’ organisation is the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), representing approximately 60,000 small, medium and large companies, with around 1.9 million employees.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, SALAR (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting, SKL) is the largest employers’ organisation for the public sector, representing 290 municipalities and 20 regions (previously county councils) with over 1 million employees.

The Swedish Agency for Government Employers, SAGE (Arbetsgivarverket) is the membership organisation for government agencies. SAGE represents approximately 250 public authorities and agencies for the 250,000 government employees.

Most employers with a collective agreement are also members of an employers’ organisation. If the employer wishes to sign a collective agreements without becoming a member of an employers’ organisation, they can opt for a voluntary extension agreement (hängavtal) directly with the trade union.

Main employers’ confederations

Long name

Abbreviation

Members

Year

Involved in collective bargaining

Confederation of Swedish Enterprise

SN

60,000 firms and 50 business and employer organisations

2020

Yes, directly and indirectly

Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions

SALAR

290 municipalities and 20 regions

2018

Yes, directly and indirectly

Swedish Agency for Government Employers

SAGE

250 public authorities

2018

Yes, indirectly

Source: National Mediation Office (2020)

Agreements between the confederations (peak-level organisations) are known as central agreements (centrala överenskommelserThese generally concern negotiating procedures. Collective wage bargaining is done at the sectoral and local level.

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

Tripartite negotiations are rare in Sweden. Sweden has a tradition of discussion and cooperation between the social partners that establishes the terms of collective bargaining. The social partners do not welcome intervention by the government, and the tradition of self-regulation through collective bargaining by social partners is strong.

Negotiations tend to start a few months before the current collective agreement is set to expire. Social partners in the manufacturing industry are usually the first ones to start bargaining as the main collective agreement in that sector sets the benchmark for other sectors. The Swedish Trade Union Confederation generally coordinates its member organisations to put forward a joint bid. Many collective agreements are signed and set to expire in the same period, which makes for big and intense ‘bargaining rounds’.

An important bipartite body is the Swedish Labour Court. This is a special court set up to rule on labour-related disputes. Both employer and employee interests are represented in the court. In addition, a significant development in recent times was the formation of the National Mediation Office in 2000, which was set up in order to help social partners reach agreements and promote a well-functioning wage structure.

Sweden also has around 10 job security councils (trygghetsråd), of which the three largest are Trygghetsrådet (TRR) for the private sector, Trygghetsfonden (TSL) for parts of the private sector and Trygghetsstiftelsen (TSN) for the central government sector. The job security councils are bipartite bodies that help employees and employers handle labour market transitions. The job security councils are based on collective agreements. They help employees who have been made redundant find new employment.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies

Name

Type

Level

Issues covered

Swedish Labour Court

Bipartite

National

Labour-related disputes

Job security councils

Bipartite

National and sectoral

Unemployment and labour market transitions

Workplace-level employee representation

  • Trade unions: Trade unions are the most common form of employee representation. They are present in almost all workplaces where there are collective agreements, either as local representatives or as a local branch of a trade union. Trade union representatives negotiate on issues between employers and employees. The Employment (Co - determination in the workplace) Act (1976:580) regulates employees’ right to join a trade union. The right to engage in union activities in individual workplaces is regulated in the Trade Union Representatives (Status in the workplace) Act (1974:358).
  • Health and safety committees: Health and safety committees are present in nearly all workplaces, either in the form of a safety representative, a regional safety representative or a safety committee. The role of the health and safety representative or committee is to ensure that the employer follows work environment regulations, both physical and psychological. The Work Environment Act (1977:1160) states that each workplace with five employees or more must have a health and safety representative. It is the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s responsibility to ensure that the Work Environment Act. is followed.
  • Board representation: Employees have the right to have representatives on the board of private companies with at least 25 employees in order to gain insight into and influence the board’s work. This is regulated in the Board Representation (Private Sector Employees) Act (1987:1245).

Regulation, composition and competences of the bodies

 

Regulation

Composition

Competences of the body

Involved in company-level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Fackförening (Trade union)

Law and collective agreements

Employees

Yes

n.a.

Skyddsombud/Arbetsmiljöombud (Health and safety representative/committee)

Law

Employees

No

Workplaces with five or more employees have health and safety representatives

Styrelserepresentation för anställda (Board representation)

Law

Employees

No

Private companies with 25 or more employees

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

Bargaining system

In Sweden, social partners bargain free from government influence in both industrial relations and social dialogue. Collective agreements are a cornerstone of the Swedish labour market. While most collective agreements are negotiated at sectoral level, there is an increasing trend towards local-level agreements. The sectoral industry agreement, the Industrial Cooperation and Negotiation Agreement, is a benchmark for wage development in other sectors. It is becoming more common, in particular for white-collar employees, to conclude collective agreements with no stipulated wage increases (National Mediation Office, 2018).

Another feature of the Swedish system is that collective agreements can differ from the law. While the law provides the framework, the social partners can negotiate terms that depart from the law, often in favour of employees.

Wage bargaining coverage

Collective wage bargaining coverage in Sweden is high by international standards: 9 out of 10 employees are covered by a collective wage agreement. In 2020, there were around 700 collective agreements in place according to the National Mediation Office. While the agreements are signed voluntarily, an employee organisation can take industrial action to obtain a collective agreement. Once signed, collective agreements are legally binding.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees from different sources

Level

% (year)

Source

Comments

All levels

88 (2018)

2021 – OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database

 

All levels

89 (2019)

2019 – ECS

 

All levels

n.a. (2010)

2010 – SES

 

All levels

n.a. (2014)

2014 – SES

 

All levels

92 (2018)

2018 – SES

 

All levels

90 (2019)

Kjellberg (2021b)

(16-64 y/o)

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2019 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible); Eurostat, Structure of Earnings Survey (SES), companies >10 employees (NACE B-SxO), single answer for each local unit: more than 50% of employees covered by such an agreement – online dataset codes: [EARN_SES10_01], [EARN_SES14_01], [EARN_SES18_01] (Percentage of employees working in local units where more than 50% of the employees are covered under a collective pay agreement against the total number of employees in the scope of the survey); Kjellberg (2019a); OECD/AIAS ICTWSS Database 2021

Despite a decline in union membership, collective bargaining coverage has remained relatively stable for the last 10 years. Nine out of 10 employees were covered by collective agreements in 2019. Collective agreement coverage is higher among blue-collar workers than among white-collar workers; in 2018, an estimated 95% of blue-collar workers and around 85% of white-collar workers were covered. When looking only at the private sector, the difference is even higher (Kjellberg, 2019a).

Collective bargaining coverage – national data (workers 16–64 years)

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Private

85%

84%

83%

83%

85%

Public

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

Total

90%

90%

89%

90%

90%

Source: Kjellberg (2019b, 2021b)

Bargaining levels

The most common level of negotiation is the sectoral level. There are normally several sectoral agreements within each sector, often one covering blue-collar workers and another covering white-collar workers. Agreements are also negotiated at company level, but cross-sectoral agreements are uncommon. Sweden’s structure of collective bargaining has become more decentralised in recent decades (Kjellberg, 2009).

Levels of collective bargaining 2020

 

National level (intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level

 

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Wages

Working time

Principal or dominant level

   

x

x

   

Important but not dominant level

       

x

x

Existing level

x

x

       

Articulation

The content of the sectoral agreements normally governs the agreements concluded locally. Employee insurance and pensions are examples of issues often covered at sectoral or even cross-sectoral level, while holidays and work environment issues are mostly negotiated at sectoral level. Wages and working hours are negotiated at sectoral or local level. The sectoral industry agreement, the Industrial Cooperation and Negotiation Agreement, has an intersectoral effect and is a benchmark for wage development in other sectors.

Timing of the bargaining rounds

Collective bargaining rounds tend to take place in the spring. Most agreements last for one to three years. The last major bargaining round was in 2020, when around 500 out of 700 collective agreements were renegotiated, affecting around 3 million workers (National Mediation Office, 2021).

Coordination

Wage bargaining coordination is primarily carried out through two mechanisms. First, the Industrial Cooperation and Negotiation Agreement sets the norm for wage bargaining in Sweden. A centrally agreed percentage pay increase by employer and employee representatives in the industrial sector that aims to ensure Sweden remains competitive sets the standard for pay increases in other sectoral agreements. Second, the trade union confederations often coordinate bargaining for employees organised in different trade unions covering several sectors.

Extension mechanisms

In Sweden, it is not possible to extend collective agreements by decree or legislation. However, voluntary extension of collective agreements is rather common. Unorganised employers can sign agreements with trade unions (hängavtal). In 2018, around 110,000 (4%) workers in the private sector were covered by a collective agreement under this type of agreement (Kjellberg, 2019a). In addition, employers with collective agreements must apply the provisions of the collective agreements to their employees, even if they are not members of the signatory trade union. Consequently, trade union density in Sweden is approximately 70%, while collective bargaining coverage is approximately 90%.

Derogation mechanisms

Derogation from collective agreements is possible but is a matter for contracting parties.

There was a change in Swedish law in April 2010 (known as ‘Lex Laval’) stipulating that unions only could impose actions in order to instate a Swedish collective agreement under certain circumstances. Unions could not impose actions if the employer could show that the terms of employment are equal or superior to the central sector collective agreements. However, this law was repealed in 2017.

Expiry of collective agreements

Negotiations start a few months before the collective agreement expires. If an agreement is not reached, a mediator is called in. Once a collective agreement has expired and if no new agreement has been signed, employers and trade unions are allowed to resort to industrial action.

Peace clause

If there is a collective agreement in place, neither employers nor trade unions may use industrial action. This peace obligation is regulated in the Employment (Co-Determination in the Workplace) Act (1976:580), as well as in all collective agreements. This means that industrial action can only be used once a collective agreement has expired or when there was no agreement in the first place. One exception to this rule is the use of sympathy action, i.e. industrial action used in order to show support for workers in another sector or occupation.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

  • Gender equality: Gender equality is addressed in collective bargaining and is considered important by both employers’ organisations and trade unions.
  • Training: Training is becoming an increasingly important part of collective agreements. The vocational introductory jobs are aimed at young, unemployed people with little or no experience and they combine work with training. One of the agreements, between Almega and LO, also concerned introductory jobs for disabled people.

Industrial action and disputes

Industrial action and disputes

Legal aspects

The Codetermination Act regulates collective agreements, employees’ right to trade union representation and the right to join a trade union or employers’ organization. There is no law that governs the type of industrial action that is allowed.

Industrial action can take several forms. Trade unions usually begin industrial action through blockades (blockad), which implies that certain duties are not undertaken, like working overtime. If the conflict continues, more severe forms of industrial action can be used, such as strikes (strejk) and lockouts (lockout). The trade union, rather than the employer, is responsible for paying the employees during a strike or lockout, but this is normally less than the employee’s salary. Finally, members of a different union can take industrial action in support of the disputing union (sympatiåtgärd). Since the National Mediation Office was established in 2000, the number of strikes in a year has never been over 20.

Industrial action developments, 2015–2020

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Working days lost per 1,000 employed persons

0.1*

2.2*

0.5*

0.1*

1.5*

0*

Number of lockouts

1

2

1

0

2

0

Number of legal strikes

2

8

4

1

3

0

Number of illegal strikes

2

0

1

0

0

0

* The total number of working days lost, according to the National Mediation Office, was 37,072 in 2012, 7,084 in 2013, 3,450 in 2014, 234 in 2015, 10,417 in 2016, 2,570 in 2017, 50 in 2018, 7,577 in 2019 and 0 in 2020. The total number of employed persons (16–64 years), according to Statistics Sweden’s Labour Force Survey, was 4,501,700 in 2012, 4,545,100 in 2013, 4,580,100 in 2014, 4,650,400 in 2015, 4,727,900 in 2016, 4,822,200 in 2017, 4,900,900 in 2018, 4,926,900 in 2019, and 4,852,100 in 2020.

Source: National Mediation Office (2021a).

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

The National Mediation Office is the public authority that provides mediators for collective agreement disputes, promotes efficient wage formation processes and provides public statistics on wages. Yet, the main principle is voluntary mediation in terms of the social partners themselves taking responsibility for bargaining and collective agreements. In the case of disputes regarding the risk of a strike or lockout being a danger to society, there are special committees that can settle these disputes. These conflict resolution bodies include representatives of the social partners involved, at times in cooperation with independent experts.

Although dispute resolution in principle is voluntary, specific circumstances can make it compulsory. The National Mediation Office can in some situations (e.g. in the case of industrial action taken) appoint mediators, even without the approval of the partners involved. In addition, the government may decide on compulsory arbitration for contracts related to the common interest, e.g. the ones for civil servants. (A paragraph was added to the Codetermination Act in 2013 reinforcing the National Mediation Office’s role as a negotiator concerning collective bargaining between social partners, and not between individuals).

In the case of legal disputes regarding how to interpret or implement a law or a collective agreement, the Labour Court functions as the final arbiter if the parties involved are (or usually are) bound by collective agreements. In fact, collective agreements commonly include provisions for certain types of disputes to be settled through arbitration.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

The main dispute resolution mechanism for individuals is the Swedish Labour Court, which hears and rules on all labour-related disputes between employers and employees.

Use of dispute resolution mechanisms

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Number of mediations

2

24

15

0

2

8

Source: National Mediation Office (2021b).

Note: local conflicts not included.

There was a similar number of mediations by the National Mediation Office in 2012 and 2013 (between 23 and 25 mediations). As the table shows, there were significantly fewer mediations in 2014 and 2015, before the number rose significantly again in 2016. The number of mediations conducted by the National Mediation Office the last three years range between 0 and 8.

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Sweden.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, the minimum working age for labour that is not physically or mentally challenging is 13 years of age. For all other work, the minimum working age is 18 years.

In the private sector, the employer is generally free to choose employees as long as it is within the bounds of the law. For example, the employer cannot unlawfully discriminate. The Employment Protection Act regulates that the employer must provide written information to the employee on the conditions of the employment within one month of the employee starting. The laws concerning governmental employees are somewhat stricter and are additionally regulated in the Public Employment Act (LOA 1994:260). With some exceptions, employment contracts are permanent.

Dismissal and termination procedures

Temporary contracts expire on their termination date. Permanent contracts can be terminated for two reasons: redundancy or personal reasons. Redundancy implies that the contract is terminated for organisational reasons, such as lack of work. Personal reasons imply that the employee has not properly conducted their job.

Dismissal and termination processes are regulated in the Employment Protection Act and the Codetermination Act. Collective agreements can offer alternative procedures than those decided by law. The Employment Protection Act has been highly debated in recent years, ans is currently being reformed. An important aspect in the debates has been the ‘last in, first out’ principle, which implies that the person who has worked the shortest amount of time in the workplace is the first to leave if there are redundancies.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

Maternity and paternity leave is called parental leave in Sweden, as both parents qualify for paid leave. Parental leave is paid for approximately 16 months (480 days). Ninety days are reserved for each parent, while the remaining 300 days can be split whichever way the parents wish. According to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan), the proportion of parental leave taken by fathers has increased, but remains well below maternity leave (paternity leave represents around one-quarter of all parental leave days taken).

Statutory leave arrangements

Parental leave

Maximum duration

480 days of paid leave, of which 90 days are reserved for each parent. (Maternity leave can be taken from 60 days before the due date).

Reimbursement

390 days based on income (if previously employed, this is often around 80% of the wage), 90 days at SEK 180 (EUR 17.7 as per 8 March 2021) per day. Two children: 660 days; Three children: 840 days; Four children: 1,020 days.

Who pays?

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency

Legal basis

Föräldraledighetslagen (1995:584) regulates the right to have time off when having a child. Socialförsäkringsbalken (2010:110) and collective agreements regulate reimbursement.

Source: Swedish Social Insurance Agency

Sick leave

When an employee is on sick leave for 14 days or less, the employee has the right to obtain sick pay for 80% of the salary, except for the first day, which is unpaid (karensdag). When the employee is sick for more than 14 days (or if unemployed), sick pay is provided by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Sickness benefit (sjukpenning)). The employer may terminate the employment relationship as long as the termination does not contravene the Employment Protection Act.

Retirement age

Sweden has a flexible retirement system. The retirement age is between 62 (the earliest age from when you can begin to collect your public pension) and 68 years (the age when you are no longer automatically protected from dismissal), but workers have traditionally left the workforce at 65. There are no gender differences in retirement age. Everyone has the right to work until they are 68, and there is no upper limit on when an individual must stop working.

In January 2020, the retirement age span was raised from 61-67 to 62-68. In the years to come, the age span will be raised again. From 2023, workers will have the right to continue working until the age of 69. And while not yet decided upon by the Parliament, it is likely that the earliest age to collect public pension will be raised to 63 in 2024 and to 64 in 2027 (Pensionsmyndigheten, 2021).

Pay

Pay

Pay

Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Sweden and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

Average monthly basic wages per workers, annual average (SEK & EUR)

NACE

2017

2019

Men

(SEK)

Men

(EUR)

Women

(SEK)

Women

(EUR)

Men

(SEK)

Men

(EUR)

Women

(SEK)

Women

(EUR)

A-S

 

34300

3273

30400

2901

35700

3570

32200

3220

A

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

26900

2567

25100

2396

28800

2880

26800

2680

B

Mining and quarrying

35700

3407

35300

3369

37000

3700

37300

3730

C

Manufacturing

34000

3245

32900

3140

36000

3600

35200

3520

D

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

40000

3818

37900

3617

42300

4230

41100

4110

E

Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

31900

3045

33400

3188

33100

3210

35200

3520

F

Construction

33600

3207

33000

3150

34700

3470

34800

3480

G

Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

33500

3197

28300

2701

24100

2410

29100

2910

H

Transportation and storage

29500

2816

29800

2844

30400

3040

31400

3140

I

Accommodation and food service activities

24600

2348

23100

2205

25500

2550

24700

2470

J

Information and communication

44400

4238

40300

3846

46100

4610

43200

4320

K

Financial and insurance activities

54900

5240

40500

3865

58000

5800

43600

4360

L

Real estate activities

37800

3608

34200

3264

37400

3740

36100

3610

M

Professional, scientific and technical activities

44100

4209

38600

3684

44300

4430

39900

3990

N

Administrative and support service activities

28400

2711

27700

2644

29100

2910

29000

2900

O

Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

36100

3446

34700

3312

38000

3800

36700

3670

P

Education

33000

3150

30300

2892

35000

3500

32300

3230

Q

Human health and social work activities

31000

2959

28300

2701

32100

3210

29900

2990

R

Arts, entertainment and recreation

29500

2816

27800

2653

30900

3090

29000

2900

Source: Salary structures, Statistics Sweden. Note: based on exchange rate 1 SEK = 0.095444 EUR (as of 7 February 2019) and exchange rate 1 SEK = 0.100 EUR (as of 19 February 2021).

 

Minimum wages

Sweden does not have a statutory minimum wage. Wages are set following negotiations between the social partners at sectoral and local level.

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

 

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Sweden.

Working time regulation

Working time in Sweden is set in the Working Hours Act (ATL 1982:673) and in collective agreements. While the norm is set by the law, it is possible to depart from the law in collective agreements, often to the benefit of employees.

With some exceptions, the statutory maximum weekly working time is 40 hours. This is shortened in some collective agreements. The average weekly working hours for full-time employees in 2017 was 40.7 (Eurostat). According to the Annual Leave Act (Semesterlagen 1977:480), the statutory minimum annual paid leave is 25 days.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

Overtime is defined as time that exceeds normal working hours. For work that includes standby or on-call hours, overtime is time that exceeds on-call hours. According to the Working Hours Act, on-call hours cannot exceed 48 hours per employee over a four-week period or 50 hours per month.

In general, an employee is legally not allowed to work more than 50 hours of overtime per month and 200 hours of overtime per year. It is possible for an employer to circumvent the law in collective agreements, but these agreements must still adhere to the EU Working Time Directive. An agreement cannot be signed where the working hours are more than 48 hours per week over a four-month period. Employees can receive compensation for overtime under collective or individual agreements, either in the form of payment or time off in lieu. It is possible to individually negotiate for extra pay or time off in place of overtime compensation.

Part-time work

Part-time employment is defined as employment that is less than full-time employment (in other words, less than 40 hours per week). Working hours for part-time employment are determined contractually.

Extra time (mertid) for part-time work roughly corresponds to overtime for full-time work. It is defined as the hours above the contractually agreed time and below normal working hours under full-time employment. In general, an employee can work at most 200 hours of extra time per year. It is possible to negotiate different terms in collective agreements.

Part-time work is relatively prevalent in Sweden. In 2019, 20.9% of people in employment worked part-time, which is above the EU27 average of 17.8% of total employment for the same year. It is much more common for women to work part-time than for men. Almost one in three women work part-time, compared to only one in eight men.

Persons employed part-time in Sweden and EU27 (% of total employment)

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total (EU27)

18.2

18.1

18

17.8

17.8

16.6

Total (Sweden)

23

22.6

21.9

21.2

20.9

20.9

Women (EU27)

30.2

30

29.8

29.5

29.4

27.6

Women (Sweden)

34.9

34.2

32.9

31.6

30.7

30.1

Men (EU27)

8

7.9

7.9

7.7

7.8

7.2

Men (Sweden)

12.1

11.8

11.9

11.7

12

12.7

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part-time because they could not find a full-time job. The share of involuntary part-time workers has decreased over the last few years.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in Sweden and EU27 (% of total part-time employment)

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total (EU27)

32.3

31

29.7

28

26.5

25

Total (Sweden)

29.5

28.6

27.4

24.5

23.3

23.1

Women (EU27)

28.8

27.7

26.4

25.2

23.9

22.5

Women (Sweden)

28.4

27.1

25.7

22.6

21.7

21.6

Men (EU27)

43.6

41.8

40.4

37.2

34.9

33.1

Men (Sweden)

32.6

32.6

31.8

29.2

27.2

26.6

Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Involuntary part-time work in Sweden is more common among blue-collar workers, while a larger share of white-collar workers choose to work part time (predominantly women).

Night work

Night work means any work that includes the period between 22.00 and 06.00. As defined by The Working Hours Act (Arbetstidslagen), the working time for night work must be limited to a maximum of 8 hours within each 24-hour period (on average, counted on a period of maximum four months).

Shift work

Shift work is not legally defined, but it commonly means any work at different times over a given period of days or weeks. The Working Hours Act defines that employees must have at least 11 hours free from work during each period of 24 hours. These 11 hours must include the period between midnight and 05.00. (Exceptions are allowed if there are special reasons why the work needs to be performed during night-time). In addition, employees are allowed a minimum of 36 hours’ rest for each period of seven days, a leave that should be scheduled for the weekend, if possible.

Weekend work

Weekend work is not legally defined, but it commonly means work at Saturday and/or Sunday. The regulations for this type of work are included in the ones regulating shift work, as described above.

Rest and breaks

The regulations for ‘rest period’ (meaning any period which is not working time) are included in the ones for shift work, as described above. A break means a period during the working day for which the employees are not obliged to stay at the working place. The breaks should ensure that the workers do not work for more than five hours continuously and should be adapted – in terms of number and length - to the working conditions. In addition, it is the responsibility of the employer to arrange the work so that the workers can take the pauses needed (in contrast to the breaks, pauses are included in the working time).

Working time flexibility

Working time flexibility can be negotiated in collective or local agreements. There is no legal requirement for working time flexibility in Sweden.

Flexitime is relatively common in Sweden. According to the European Company Survey 2019, nearly half of all establishments with 10 employees or more offer flexible working hours to over 80% of their employees. Flexible working hours are somewhat more common among larger establishments than smaller establishments.

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Sweden.

Health and safety at work

The Swedish Work Environment Authority publishes statistics on the number of accidents and work-related illnesses in their statistical database, as well as the number of fatal accidents. In 2015, 32,279 occupational accidents resulted in at least one day’s absence. In 2018, 334,900 occupational accidents resulted in at least one day’s absence. There were more accidents among men (18,479) than women (13,800), and most accidents happened within health and social care (6,394), manufacturing (5,968) and construction (3,585). Fatal work-related accidents have increased in Sweden from 34 in 2015 to 58 in 2018. Fatal work-related accidents decreased in Sweden from 58 in 2018 to 46 in 2019.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

All accidents

21,888

23,028

22,987

23,393

n.d.

Percent change on previous year

2.6

5.2

-0.1

1,7

n.d.

Per 1,000 employees

5.0

5.2

n.d.

n.d.

n.d.

Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed]

Psychosocial risks

In Sweden, physical and psychosocial safety is regulated in the Work Environment Act (AML 1977:1160). It is the employer’s responsibility to take the precautions necessary to prevent illness and accidents in the workplace, while it is the employee’s responsibility to follow instructions and partake in work environment discussions. The employer must systematically examine and evaluate psychosocial risks and occurrences.

According to Eurofound’s 6th European Working Conditions Survey, published in 2016, Sweden is one of five EU Member States with the highest index for work intensity (an index that measures the level of work demands). 28% of employees has a job that includes working to tight deadlines all the time. Sweden is also among the five countries with the highest average number of long working days (meaning working more than 10 hours a day), 3.1 per month. 55% of the Swedish employees work more than 10 hours a day at least once per month. Finally, 11% of employees had been subjected to discrimination over the past 12 months.

For more detailed information on health and well-being at work, please consult:

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Swedish system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

Under some collective agreements, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the employee has the right competencies. In addition, the employee has the legal right to take study leave from work if they have been with their employer for six months or more. This is regulated under the Employee’s Right to Educational Leave Act (Studieledighetslagen 1974:981).

As mentioned above, Sweden has around 10 job security councils (trygghetsråd). These are bipartite bodies that, under collective agreements, provide support to employees and employers before and during layoffs. The job security councils offer advice, economic assistance and skill development.

The Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedligen), an agency under the Ministry of Employment, works to match jobseekers and employers. One method is through labour market training (arbetsmarknadsutbildningar). Labour market training is a type of training that is used for the unemployed or those who are at risk of unemployment in order to increase the jobseeker’s competencies and chance of finding work.

Training

The European Company Survey 2019 shows that more than 80% of employees in around one-third of establishments in Sweden receive paid time off for training. The share that receives paid time off for training is highest among medium-sized establishments (50–249 employees) with employee representation, while the share is lowest for medium-sized establishments without employee representation. In general, there is a somewhat greater tendency for establishments with employee representation to offer paid time off for training.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

For more detailed information on work organisation, please consult:

A comprehensive Work Environment Survey is undertaken biannually by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. In the 2019 survey, nearly three out of four were content with their work in general. Around 40 percent found their work to be highly or partially mentally strenuous. More women than men experienced this. One in four felt that they had a physically strenuous job in 2019.

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Discrimination in Sweden is regulated by the Discrimination Act (Diskrimineringslagen 2008:567), which, inter alia, prohibits unlawful discrimination on the labour market. The employer has a duty to ensure the workplace is free of discrimination. Any cases of discrimination or harassment can be reported to the Equality Ombudsman (DO), a public agency with the mandate of investigating cases and bringing them to court.

Equal pay and gender pay gap

One of the main wage-setting debates during the bargaining round of 2017 concerned closing the gender wage gap. According to data from the National Mediation Office, the unadjusted (also called the unweighted) gender wage gap in Sweden was 11.3% in 2017, having decreased steadily over the last decade. The largest difference between men and women’s wages were found in the county councils (20.6%), whereas the municipalities showed the smallest difference (3.1%). The weighted or the unexplained gender wage gap for 2017 (meaning the gender pay gap that remains after differences in occupation, sector, education, age and working time have been accounted for) was 4.3%. The largest unexplained gender wage gap is here found among white-collar workers in the private sector (6.5%) and the difference in the county councils and municipalities is instead smaller (3.8% and 0.3% respectively). In sum, the unweighted as well as the weighted gender wage gap has decreased during the last decade but varies significantly among different sectors.

In order to prevent unjustified gender pay gaps, employers are obliged to conduct annual wage surveys. The wage surveys were introduced in 1994 and were recently strengthened to become fully-fledged pay audits. From January 2017 onwards, an annual mapping of wages at the workplace is mandatory for all employers. The mapping should include an analysis of policies on wage and other employment conditions used by the employer; Pay inequalities between men and women performing the same tasks; Pay inequalities between men and women performing equivalent tasks (in terms of demands and responsibility); Pay inequalities between tasks that are female-dominated and not female-dominated (if the non-female-dominated tasks are less demanding but pay better). The purpose of the analysis is to reveal structural discrimination at the workplace that the employer needs to deal with. For workplaces with 10 or more people, the analysis has to be documented (‘pay audits’). Establishments with more than 25 employees have to make a wage action plan. The plans need to be made accessible to the trade unions which are in charge of the relevant collective agreement as well as the Equality Ombudsman.

Quota regulations

There are no labour market quota regulations in Sweden.

Bibliography

Bibliography

Eurofound (2020a), Industrial relations: Developments 2015–2019, Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurofound (2020b), Minimum Wages in 2020: Annual review, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound (2020c), Collective agreements and bargaining coverage in the EU: A mapping of types, regulations and first findings from the European Company Survey 2019, working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2020d), Employee representation at establishment or company level: A mapping report ahead of the 4th European Company Survey, working paper, Dublin.

Eurofound (2021), Working conditions and sustainable work: An analysis using the job quality framework, Challenges and prospects in the EU series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Eurofound and Cedefop (2020), European Company Survey 2019: Workplace practices unlocking employee potential, European Company Survey 2019 series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg

Eurostat, LFS ad-hoc modules: 2019. Work organisation and working time arrangements. Eurostat database.

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