Uppsala Center for Labor Studies
Oskar Nordström Skans, Uppsala University
Research on labor market institutions and employment relations has been pursued from several disciplinary angles, including economics, political science, sociology, and labor law. This interdisciplinary field is traditionally known as “Industrial Relations”.
A high degree of unionization has been an essential feature of the traditional “Swedish model”. Labor legislation is based on the presumption that the overwhelming majority of workers are union members. Indeed, union density by the end of the 20th century hovered above and around 80 percent which is exceptionally high in an international perspective. However, union participation has shown a marked downward trend in recent years. What are the driving forces and how does the membership pattern interacts with the demand for unemployment insurance?
Over recent years, research on labor markets has identified different production regimes as a way of clarifying differences and similarities among nations. Our intention is to pursue macro-comparative research on social institutions with the aim to extend the institutional horizon beyond the focus on welfare state regimes. The approach includes analyses of the institutional variation as such but also the causes and consequences of this variation. The comparative method is fruitful not only when it comes to understanding how institutional differences are related to structural and political factors, it is indispensable when it comes to analyzing the consequences of these differences. Macro-comparative analyses can also be applied to study the driving forces behind changes of the unemployment insurance systems.
Sweden’s participation in the European Union raises new issues regarding labor market regulations. The traditional Swedish model with strong reliance on collective agreements is increasingly often confronted with legal acts determined at the EU level. Moreover, it has become increasingly common that disputes in the domestic labor market involve companies or employees from more than one country. These developments raise positive as well as normative questions. What are the labor market impacts on EU-driven legal changes in labor law? What is the appropriate division of authority to deal with labor market regulations when markets become increasingly integrated?