Sweden: Working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Jobkvalitet,
  • Published on: 08 januar 2014



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Statistics Sweden doesn´t provide separate data on working conditions of young entrants. The proxy definition used is young employees in the age of 16-24, independently of years of working experience. Information covering working conditions among young adults in employment is limited. However, available data indicates that young employees face worse working conditions concerning employment status and work related health problems. Young women and individuals with foreign background experience the work environment more stressful than their male counterparts. The public debate is concentrated on whether restrictions of work conditions is inhibiting or promoting youth unemployment rate and the possibility for young people to enter the labor market.

Introduction

This EWCO CAR is specifically focused on the group of “young entrants to the labour market”. This group includes all young people (between 15 and 30 years old) who have recently entered into the labour market (i.e., people with a work experience shorter than 1-2 years in the labour market), with relative independence of their age and for whom work is their main and core activity. This definition excludes young people for whom studies are their main activity but who combine their studies with some remunerated activity as part of their training programmes (e.g. apprenticeships in dual systems), as well as unemployed young people, even if they are actively looking for a job (see Background note for more detailed information on the concept of young entrants to be considered in the research).

The CAR coordinating team is conscious that such as “narrow” definition of “young entrants to the labour market” can make difficult the identification and collection of relevant information on the topic. Therefore, and in the case no national information is available using this “narrow” definition, National Correspondents can use a “proxy” definition of “young entrant to the labour market” as any young person (i.e. between 15 and 30 years old) who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience that he/she has in the labour market (again, unemployed young people are excluded from the analysis).

The questionnaire focuses on the following topics:

  • General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups (around 700 words)

  • Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country (around 600 words)

  • Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis (around 500 words)

  • Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market (around 500 words)

  • Final commentary on the main results (around 100 words)

Block 1: General description and characterisation of the main current working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in your country in comparison to other age groups

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national research/studies) on a number of working conditions-related variables specifically related to young entrants to the labour market in comparison to other age groups. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified in relation to other age groups, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 700 words

1.1 Career and employment security issues

Data concerning working conditions in Sweden seldom separate data for young entrants from other groups of young employed in Sweden. The proxy definition used by Statistics Sweden and Arbetsförmedlingen is any young adult between 16 and 24 who is in employment, irrespectively of the number of years of experience in the labor market. The average age of entry into labor market, defined as part time work, is 20 years for men and 21 years for women (SCB, 2012).

A report from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) concludes that young employees (16-24), are employed as temporary workers to a larger extent than older employees. 53% of the employed in the age of 16-24 possess an temporary employment status compared to 6-9% among employed over 30 (LO, 2012). According to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), the rationale of this difference can be explained by the risk associated with hiring permanent in times of recession or as a “stepping stone strategy” used by young entrants to lower the threshold into a potential work life (DN, 2013). However, 60% of young entrants would prefer permanent full-time employment (LO, 2013).

Concerning working time issues, SCB concludes that 55% of all young adults in employment (16-24) have another working time than regular daytime, in relation to 35% in the age group 25-64. The report further manifest that the proportion of employees with working time flexibility is 32% among young employees and 55% among employees over 24. The share of employees satisfied with the working time arrangement is 85% in the group of young adults, compared to 92% in the age group 45-64 (SCB, 2012). The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) attributes the causes of the differences to the specific structure of labor market depending on rigidity in employment laws, wage conditions and educational system (FAS, 2007).

Svenskt Näringsliv highlights that the wage differential between starting salaries among young employees (18-24) compared to the age group 18-64, with far more work experience, is about 400€ with great variety between branches (Svenskt Näringsliv, 2012). The institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU) concludes in a report that Sweden has the lowest wage distribution in OECD, likely as a result of union negotiated agreements on minimum wages (IFAU, 2012).

1.2 Skills development

Limited data is available regarding skills development for young adults. According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket), the proportion of employees that state they have opportunities to learn new things and fulfill themselves at work is larger in the age group under 30 compared to employees in older age groups (30-64) (Arbetsmiljöverket 2012).

1.3 Health and well being

Arbetsmiljöverket concludes that young adults (16-24) in employment are at slighter greater risk of being involved in an accident at work compared to the older workforce (25-64). The causes of the difference are attributed to the fact that young adults in employment are less educated on work environment issues (Arbetsmiljöverket, 2012). A comparative study by Arbetsmiljöverket concludes that reported work-related disorders are relatively lower in the group of young employees (16-25 years) compared to employees over 25 years (Arbetsmiljöverket 2012). 69% of young adults in employment (20-30) have reported absence due to illness 2012 compared to 47% in the age group older than 55 (Sveriges Företagshälsor, 2013). Regarding psychosocial risks and stress at work, the trade union confederation LO states without presenting statistics, that young employees comparatively are more exposed to work related health problems as a result of insecure employment status. In the age group 16-24 it is almost 40% who perform tasks of monotonous and repetitive character compared to 10% of the work force in the ages of 55-64 (LO, 2012).

1.4 Reconciliation of working and non-working life

SCB publishes regularly reports on living conditions and put forward that the reasons for part time work are different in the group of young adults (16-24) in employment in relation to other groups of employees (25-64). Young employees want to a larger extent work full time but are not offered such employment status. The report doesn´t indicate that there would be an age difference in the perception of work life balance or personal fulfillment at work (SCB, 2012). The proportion of young adults in employment younger than 30 considering their work as being pointless is higher compared to other age groups. This is explained by the fact that young people to a larger extent is uneducated and therefore qualifies for unskilled jobs where the possibility of making independent decisions is limited. Moreover, such jobs are often characterized as arduous (Arbetsmiljöverket 2012).

Block 2: Identification and characterisation of existing differences in working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market in your country

NCs are kindly requested to provide the most updated information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions within the group of young entrants to the labour market, for a series of variables. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 600 words

2.1 Personal characteristics of young entrants

Limited data is available regarding personal characteristics of young adults in employment. This section is to a large extent based on the only found report regarding this task from trade union confederation LO, Working Conditions of young adults and view on working life focusing primarily on differences by gender and social background. The labor market is clearly segregated by sex and social background in terms of salary conditions, employment status, work environment, sickness levels and working time issues. Female young adults in employment or young adults with foreign background in employment are experiencing worse conditions than their male counterparts. Part of this can be explained by the fact that the two groups are overrepresented in the private service industry where the presence of unions and collective agreements is less anchored than in other sectors. Other explanations can be systematic discrimination in employment and in terms of salary (LO, 2013).

The greatest challenge for young employees is to receive a secure employment, especially for young adults with foreign background where 25% have an employment status of working “if necessary”. 36% of male young adults in employment have a fixed full time employment compared to 21% among the female counterpart. Young women are overrepresented (18%) in part- time or temporary employment compared to young men (10%) (LO, 2012). A report from the Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO), concludes that this pattern is independent of education levels and state that young educated women also have a significantly higher proportion of temporary employment and irregular hours than other groups. The precarious employment status combined with higher demands and low influence at the work place is by TCO referred to as a “female ticking health bomb” (TCO, 2011). 38% of young female employees and 28% of young entrants with foreign background state that they can survive on their salary compared to 44% of the male young employees. The two groups also state that they are not receiving a salary corresponding to the work effort carried out. Other areas of concern regarding deficiencies in working conditions for women and individuals with foreign background are higher proportion of duplication to manage the household economy, inadequate working conditions and worse perception of the work environment in the sense of presence of abuse, discrimination, stress at work, unfair treatment and threats. For example twice the proportion of young women and young adults with foreign background compared to young men have been violated and harassed at work (LO, 2013).

2.2 Occupational characteristics

The report from LO concerning work life of young adults identifies occupational characteristics, in the sense of differences in the sectors and employment status, affecting working conditions. However, no data is available on working conditions among young entrants in SMEs compared to larger companies. Between 29 and 38% of young employees in service-related industries (care industry, commerce industry and the hotel and restaurant business) are to a larger extent experiencing stress at work. The reason of high levels of stress is attributed to labor shortages. In these industries it is also more common among young entrants not to get agreed salary (30%) and to be denied breaks (34%). Employees in service- related industries are dominating among them who have experienced threats at work. Threats are by far most common among young working in the security industry (44%), followed by the care industry, commerce industry and the hotel and restaurant business (LO, 2013).

Block 3: Evolution of working conditions of young entrants to the labour market in the last five years. Effects of the economic crisis

NCs are kindly requested to provide information on the following items: NCs are kindly requested to provide information (coming from national surveys, administrative registers or ad-hoc national researches/studies) on differences of working conditions amongst the group of young entrants to the labour market in comparison to the situation five years ago. Please provide the information only for those variables where significant/important differences, either positive or negative, can be identified, stressing the causes and rationale of these differences

Suggested extension of this section: around 500 words

3.1 Please provide information on the evolution of working conditions of young labour entrants in the last five years. Have working conditions of this group improved/deteriorated in comparison to the existing situation five years ago (before the economic crisis began)? What are the reasons for these changes

The Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs (Ungdomsstyrelsen) continuously conducts longitudinal studies on the working conditions of youth focusing mainly on youth unemployment. The last issued report, Youth today 2012, concludes that the proportion of young (18-24) long-term unemployed, has increased with 63% over a two- year period (2010-2011) (Ungdomsstyrelsen, 2013). The EU-funded policy group “Young in work explains the increased long-term unemployment rate among youth as a result of the economic crisis (Temagruppen Unga i arbetslivet, 2011).

3.2 Based on possible existing prospective studies, please provide information on the expected evolution of employment levels and working conditions of young labour market entrants in your country in the near future (coming 2-3 years)

SCB concludes in its prospective analysis on the labor market 2030 concerning solely supply and demand for labor, an increased skewed income dependency with an expanding number of retirements. The supply and demand for higher education increases over the forecast period. However, it is unclear how the working conditions of young people will be affected (SCB, 2011).

Block 4: Initiatives taken by national governments/social partners in order to improve employment levels and working conditions of young entrants to the labour market

4.1 Identify main recent national measures/initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by public authorities in order to improve employment opportunities and working conditions for young entrants to the labour market.

In the light of a high rate of unemployment in general and youth unemployment in particular, the centre-right Alliance government has stipulated that entry into the labor market, especially for young adults (16-25), is a top priority of the political agenda. The general debate in Sweden is concentrated on whether restrictions of work conditions is inhibiting or promoting youth unemployment rate and the possibility for young people in general to enter the labor market (Regeringskansliet, 2012).

The most prominent recent national measure is the `Youth employment guarantee´, introduced 2007, by the present government targeting unemployed people in the ages 16 to 25 starting three months after registration at the Swedish Employment Services. The objective of the policy is competence improvement in order to increase young people's employability. Activities carried out are intensified efforts focusing at counseling, study, career services and job seeking lead by a professional coach (Regeringskansliet, 2012). Concerning outcomes of the policy initiative, an evaluation carried out by Arbetsförmedlingen, argues that the probability of obtaining a job is slightly higher among young people participated in the employment guarantee compared to non-participants (Gerdes, Arbetsförmedlingen 2011). Martinson et al. (IFAU 2012) state that the employment guarantee in fact is mostly focusing on organized job seeking. Furthermore, 63% percent of the participants were seeking job and participated in activities less than 10 hours/week which is far below their labor supply (Martinson et al., IFAU 2010).

Another national measure is ´New-start jobs´, implemented 2007, directed at employers by granting them a tax credit equivalent to the general payroll tax for employment of young adults (20-25) who have been unemployed, received activity compensation, sickness benefits or participants in employment policy programmes for 6 months. The objective pursued was to prevent long-term unemployment and social exclusion (Regeringskansliet, 2012). Regarding outcomes, Liljeberg et al. (IFAU 2012) conclude that 63% of all “new start jobs” is displacement of jobs that would come about even without such a relaunch subsidy. Concerning future prospects, the results of the report indicate a positive correlation between an increased subsidy rate and number of employments while a doubled length of subsidy would have a positive effect on job duration. (Liljeberg et al., IFAU 2012).

4.2 Identify main recent initiatives (1-2) put in place in your country by social partners (either at national, sector or company level) in order to improve working conditions amongst young entrants to the labour market.

The general debate among social partners primarily focuses on how to tackle youth unemployment instead of actual working conditions. There has been no main recent implemented initiative by social partners in order to improve working conditions amongst young adults in employment since the default of the ‘job pact’ in the beginning 2013 (SE13020191 and SE1208019I). Svenskt Näringsliv is convinced that activities carried out should include revision of liberal employment laws understood as increased acceptance of fixed term contracts and increased wage differentiation with the objective pursued to lower the threshold to the labor market and thereby increase young people´s employability and reducing overall youth unemployment (Svenskt Näringsliv, 2012). LO argues that precarious employment (part-time and fixed-term) leads to poorer working conditions. Support offered by LO is therefore primarily to safeguard the Swedish ´Employment protection act´ (LAS) thereby demanding increased incentives for permanent contracts and higher minimum and initial wages with the objective pursued to ensure employment security (LO, 2012). Concerning outcomes, a report concludes that rigidity in employment laws and wage conditions probably affect the frequency of fixed employment status among young adults in the labor market but doesn´t comment on other aspects of working conditions (FAS, 2007).

Commentary by the NC

One of the main aspects making it a challenge investigating the situation of young adults in employment is that the statistics and research provided are insufficiently divided to cover this specific target group. Therefore, the results should be viewed as indicative rather than exact figures. With this in mind, there seems to be differences regarding work conditions between young entrants in relation to other age groups. However, it is difficult to comment on changes over time. Two examples of such differences are that younger people to a greater extent than older people are employed in:

  • Sectors like the service industry, characterised irregular working hours

  • Unskilled jobs, to a greater extent characterized by arduous work and where the possibility of making own decisions is limited

Overall, the public debate among trade unions and national stakeholders can be divided into two overall perspectives. Either you consider working conditions of young entrants as a goal in itself independent of its consequences on unemployment rates or your concern regards rather whether and in what way regulations on working conditions can be used as a tool to reduce youth unemployment.

Emilia Johansson and Lisa Ringqvist, Oxford Research

References

Arbetsförmedlingen (2011): Job guarantee for young people- An assessment of the guarantee increases participants' chances of getting a job.

Arbetsförmedlingen (2013): Where are the jobs to be find? - Assessment for 2013 and a longer term outlook.

Forslund et al. (2012) Collective agreements and young people´s actual starting salaries. Report 2012:19, IFAU Uppsala.

Liljeberg, Linus et. al (2012): Does new start job lead to higher employment?

Statistics Sweden (SCB) www.scb.se

Statistics Sweden (2012) Working hours and work environment 2010-2011.

Statistics Sweden (2012): Trends and forecasts 2011

The Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs (2013): Young today 2012.

The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) (2012): Young, education and labor market in the Nordic countries – similar yet different.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (2012): Will starting salary be final salary?

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (2012): Working hours and work environment 2010-2011.

The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (2011): To sleep with the work- working conditions of officials

Sveriges Företagshälsor (2013): Jobs Health Survey: Well-being at work, an age question?

The Swedish Government (Regeringskansliet) (2012): Activities for young people in the labor market

The Swedish Work Environment Authority (2012): Young in Work.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority (2012): Government commission to monitor the development of young people working.

The Swedish Work Environment Authority (2012): Work environment 2011

The Swedish Work Environment Authority (2011): Downward trend of occupational injuries-a coincidence?

The Policy Group “Young in Work” (2012): In the wake of the economic crisis.

The Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (2009): Is it worse employment conditions and lower salaries if you are born abroad?

The Swedish Union of Commercial Employees: Minimum Wages and the Swedish model

Sjögren, Anna & Svaleryd, Helena (2011): Blank in the childhood. IFAU Uppsala

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