Lönande lärande - teknologisk förändring, yrkesskicklighet och lön i svensk verkstadsindustri omrking 1900

Translated title of the contribution: Profitable Learning – technological change, skills and wages in the Swedish engineering industry around 1900

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Sweden experienced a remarkable economic growth in the period 1890-1930, to a large extent due to a very successful adaptation of core elements of the Second Industrial Revolution such as electricity and mechanical engineering. Theoretically this thesis aims at discussing changes in the balance between the relative demand for skilled and unskilled labour during the first phase of the Second Industrial Revolution from two perspectives: the possible degradation of work according to Braverman (1974) and a possible technology-skill complementarity according to Goldin & Katz (1996). The thesis consists of two part-studies, both of them based on unique source material containing detailed information on individual and firm levels. The first part-study is a cross-sectional study using the information on about 1,800 individuals from 11 workshops in the Stockholm region. The study traces the extent to which employers? requirements of the labour force were reflected in the wage-determining factors, in particular education and experience. The dynamics of the cross-sectional study are provided by a typological model created from several indicators, such as degree of mechanisation, proportions of new and old labour, specialised/diversified manufacturing etc., which makes it possible to study differences between older and newer firms in regard to skill profiles and wages. The second part-study makes use of wage series for a single firm for the period 1892-1922 as well as relative wages for the whole engineering industry for the period 1874-1900. Methodologically the thesis makes use of Mincerian equations to test for the relationship between wages, skills, experience, and education among other things.

The thesis shows that the rapid development of the Swedish engineering industry was facilitated by the fact that substantial human capital had been accumulated in the engineering industry by the end of the 1800s. The combination of a compulsory elementary education, a relatively large interest in supplementary formal education among the workshop employees, most often in the form of lower technical education, and knowledge based on experience and influence from abroad meant that there were good prerequisites for the new technology to be put into practice and developed within the expanding industry. The most important wage-determining factor was experience, but formal education had started to gain an increasing importance.

The thesis also shows that relative demand for skilled labour generally increased in the engineering industry during the first phase of the Second Industrial Revolution, but that the concepts of work skills in the more modern firms shifted towards an interpretation quite different from that which prevailed in the older engineering industry. It is also shown that the relative demand for skilled labour decreased in the rationalisation period that preceded the Second Industrial Revolution. The empirical results of the study of the relative demand for skilled labour thus show that the demands for skills were linked to cyclical changes in economic development. This interpretation of the course of events points to the possibility that the relative demand for skilled labour again turned downwards in the next rationalisation phase starting around 1910.
Translated title of the contributionProfitable Learning – technological change, skills and wages in the Swedish engineering industry around 1900
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Economic History
  • Nilsson, Anders, Supervisor, External person
Award date2007 Mar 31
ISBN (Print)978-91-22-02168
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2007-03-31
Time: 10:15
Place: Holger Crafoords Ekonomicentrum, Tycho Brahes väg 1, 220 07 Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Berggren, Lars
Title: Docent
Affiliation: Historiska institutionen, Lunds universitet


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History


  • second industrial revolution
  • engineering industry
  • recruitment
  • internal labour markets
  • human capital
  • experience
  • vocational education
  • ucation
  • skills
  • technological change
  • wages
  • Social and economic history
  • Ekonomisk och social historia


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