• Anders Kjellberg
Part of the The Societies of Europe book series (SOEU)


Sweden experienced a late but rapid industrialization, fostering a well-organized union movement in tandem with powerful employers’ associations and export-orientated multinationals. After being known as one of the most strike-prone countries, Sweden adopted a corporatist model with strong and co-operative labour market parties in the 1930s, while centralized bargaining became institutionalized in the mid-1950s. Until the 1970s, the main union confederation (LO) and the peak employer association (SAF) dominated the industrial arena. But their role was increasingly undermined by expanding white-collar and public sector unions. The latter profited from the expansion of the welfare state during the long period of Social Democratic government (1932–76). From the late 1960s onwards, rank-and-file protests pushed for pro-labour legislation, in particular on job security and co-determination at the workplace level. The close links between LO and Social Democrats facilitated such state intervention in the 1970s, but they broke down bipartite self-regulation, caused employer opposition, and ended Social Democratic hegemony. In the 1980s, employers dismantled centralized bargaining. Negotiations were shifted to the industry and workplace levels. Swedish unions achieved a remarkably high level of union density 80–85%) due to combined centralization and decentralization, which prevented fragmentary union coverage and allowed unions to gain access to rank-and-file members. White-collar employees are nearly as well organized as blue-collar workers, though in separate unions and confederations.


Public Sector Labour Movement Union Density Sector Union National Union 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Bernhard Ebbinghaus and Jelle Visser 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Kjellberg

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