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Back to Work: Sweden

Improving the Re-employment Prospects of Displaced Workers

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Job displacement (involuntary job loss due to firm closure or downsizing) affects many workers over their lifetime. Displaced workers may face long periods of unemployment and, even when they find new jobs, tend to be paid less and have fewer benefits than in their prior jobs. Helping them get back into good jobs quickly should be a key goal of labour market policy. This report is the fourth in a series of reports looking at how this challenge is being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It shows that Sweden has been relatively successful in minimising the adverse effects of displaced workers, manily due to the longstanding tradition of collaboration between the social partners to share responsibility for restructuring by creating special arrangements and practices that provide help to workers much faster that in other OECD countries. Despite this positive institutional framework, there is room to improve policies targeted to displaced workers as remarkable inequalities still exist in both the Swedish labour market and in the way workers are treated.

 

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Foreword

OECD labour markets are characterised by their dynamism. Each year, more than 20% of jobs, on average, are created and/or destroyed, and around one-third of all workers are hired and/or separated from their employer. These large job and worker flows are driven by a continuous process of labour reallocation, both across industries and between declining and growing firms within the same industry. This reallocation is an important source of productivity gains, since more productive firms expand at the expense of less productive firms and earnings rise on average for workers changing jobs, particularly workers who voluntarily quit one job in order to move to another. However, high job turnover is also a source of insecurity for workers, especially those who are displaced from their jobs because their employer downsizes its workforce or goes out of business altogether. A common challenge facing OECD governments is thus to nurture labour market dynamism while keeping the adjustment costs that are borne by displaced workers as low as possible.

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