Towards Convergence in Europe
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Towards Convergence in Europe

Institutions, Labour and Industrial Relations

Edited by Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead

This book aims to answer a number of important questions. To what extent have European countries converged or diverged with EU-wide economic and social indicators over the past 20 years? What have been the drivers of convergence? Why do some countries lag behind, while others experience continuous upward convergence? Why are these trajectories not always linear? Particular attention is paid to the role of institutions, actors and industrial relations – focusing on the resources and strategies of governments, employers and trade unions – in nudging EU countries onto an upward convergence path.
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Chapter 12: Convergence towards better working and living conditions: The crucial role of industrial relations in Sweden

Dominique Anxo


One of the basic elements of the Swedish model is a strong contractual tradition and the crucial role played by the social partners in mechanisms for regulating labour market, working conditions and wage formation. The bipartite and contractual nature of labour market regulations coupled with the high union density and high coverage rate of collective bargaining create a favourable institutional environment for the emergence of negotiated compromises aimed at balancing flexibility and security in the labour market. Sweden constitutes, therefore, a good illustration of a flexicurity regime based on negotiated flexibility and largely explains why Sweden remains a country with decent working conditions, low income disparities and extended social justice. A compressed wage structure with relatively high wage floors have also prevented the development of low-skilled jobs in Sweden and instead have boosted policies favouring skill upgrading. In effect, large investment in research and development, a well-developed lifelong learning as well as a more balanced bargaining power between the two sides of industry have limited the tendency towards job and class polarisation in Sweden.

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