Makeshift Work in a Changing Labour Market

Makeshift Work in a Changing Labour Market

The Swedish Model in the Post-Financial Crisis Era

Edited by Christina Garsten, Jessica Lindvert and Renita Thedvall

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, people who had never before had cause to worry about losing their jobs entered the ranks of the unemployed for the first time. In Sweden, the welfare state has been radically challenged and mass unemployment has become a reality in what used to be viewed as a model case for a full employment society. With an emphasis on Sweden in the context of transnational regulatory change, Makeshift Work in a Changing Labour Market discusses how the market mediates employment and moves on to explore the ways in which employees adjust to a new labour market. Focusing on the legibility, measurability and responsibility of jobseekers, the expert contributors of this book bring together an analysis of activation policy and new ways of organizing the mediation of work, with implications for the individual jobseeker.

Chapter 11: Skills development: an empty offer?

Matilda Ardenfors and Jessica Lindvert

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Few people question the benefits of skills training in working life. Research shows that skills development creates profitable workplaces and strengthens the health and well-being of employees (Ellström 1996; Holmer 2006: 23; Nilsson 1996; Rönnqvist and Thunborg 1996; Thång 2006). Access to skills development at different employers is mapped on a regular basis by quantitative compilations documenting which employees are offered training, and how access varies according to occupational group, gender and age group, and over time (Statistics Sweden). We know from these studies that those who already have good formal skills and knowledge tend to get more, while those with weaker formal competency get less. People with high education are given access more than low-educated people, public-sector employees participate more than employees in the private sector, and the proportion of women who take part is larger than the proportion of men (Ds 2002:47; Statistics Sweden 2007; SCB 2008; SOU 2000:115; Wikman 2001). In the chapter, we take the discussion one step further and show that formal access to skills development in working life and actual ability to participate in skills development are not always the same thing. The reasoning concerning actual ability is inspired by the work of Amartya Sen. Based on the concept of capabilities, Sen criticizes traditional economics’ method of measuring economic and social development (1982, 1988, 1993). According to Sen, national economics has singly focused on the resources offered to people.

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