Industrial Relations Foresight 2025 for Sweden: Presentation of Results and Comments

Research output: Book/ReportReport


This report presents and comments on the Swedish part of a survey made in autumn 2007 to obtain expert opinions on industrial relations in the EU25 and G7 countries in the year 2025. The survey was carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound). One of the basic questions was about how the process of globalisation will influence future industrial relations in each of the EU27 member states (EU15 “old members states” and EU12 “new member states”) and in Global 7 countries (Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Africa, and the USA). The questionnaire contained 16 questions about the future development of actors, processes, outcomes and general trends in industrial relations and their environment. The respondents were representatives of trade unions, employers’ organisations, governments and academic experts. From Sweden 13 respondents participated, four of them trade union representatives, another four representatives of employer organisations, two government representatives and three academic experts in the industrial relations field. The report focuses on the Swedish survey results, but also contains international comparisons. First some trends and features of Swedish industrial relations are presented. As regards union density the survey started from a series that includes full-time students working part-time. With a union density of 77% (2004) in their heads the Swedish respondents in average foresaw a density of 61% in 2025 (corresponding to 79% in 2004 and about 63% in 2025 excluding full-time students working part-time). The fall in the rate of unionization in 2007 probably influenced the foresight although the exact size of the decline was not yet known. An average union density of 61% corresponds to about 55% unionized workers in the private sector. That is substantially lower than in 2004, but a relatively small decline compared to the private sector union density in 2008 (65%, excluding full-time students). Between 2006 and 2008 density in this sector declined from 71% to 65%, that is by six percentage points in two years (excluding full-time students). A ten percentage points decline remains between 2008 and 2025, which means in average just 0.6 points per year. Collective bargaining coverage is expected to remain at a high level in 2025 (81%) but nonetheless 11 percentage points less than in 2004 (92%). By that the share of workers outside the collective bargaining system would more than double up to the year 2025. The declining union density could be expected to have a negative influence on bargaining coverage. If the average coverage fell to 81% in 2025, then the private sector collective bargaining coverage would probably be about 75%. If neither extension mechanisms nor legislation on minimum wages are introduced, as much as every fourth worker in the private sector could be outside the collective bargaining system. Long before such a situation occurs demands on legislation would probably appear. Almost 40% of Swedish respondents think that legislation on minimum wages will be introduced in the period up to 2025. As regards wages more than four out of five Swedish respondents think that collective agreements will still be the main way of regulation in the year 2025. Unions are expected to have the same impact as today at both industry and workplace level, but a considerable insecurity is indicated by the large variation in assessments, in particular regarding the impact of unions at workplace/enterprise level. This large variation probably reflects divergent views among respondents on the desirable future development. It might be called into question if the impact of Swedish trade unions were unchanged if union density declined to 61% in 2025 (about 55% in private sector) and collective bargaining coverage decreased by more than 10 percentage points. Bargaining at sector/industry level seems to continue to dominate the collective bargaining system as 10 of the 13 Swedish respondents think that the sector/branch will remain the dominant level of collective bargaining even in 2025. At the same time decentralisation is indicated as almost every second respondent thinks that either individual contracts (15%) or workplace/enterprise collective agreements (31%) will be the main way of regulating wages. Secondly, more than 60% of respondents think that the workplace/enterprise will be a more important bargaining level than today. The Swedish model of self-regulation (regulation by the labour market parties themselves) will survive, but the decreasing coverage of collective agreements might be followed by legislation on minimum wages and/or on extension of collective agreements. Most respondents, however, think that the role of the government as legislator in industrial relations will remain the same. The Swedish national arena will still be the dominant one in industrial relations in 2025, although the role of the international level and the EU level will increase, thus a certain centralisation (to the EU level) in addition to the decentralisation tendency mentioned above. A slight majority thinks that the regulating role of the EU Commission will increase in working life. Most respondents think that the impact of unions will decrease at the national level (54%), increase at the international level (69%) and remain about the same at sector/industry and workplace/enterprise levels (in the latter cases when the considerably diverging replies are weighted together). A slight majority think that social security and the degree of liberalism in economic policy will be unchanged. On the other hand, large minorities (46%) think that liberalism in economic policy will increase and social security decrease. Large majorities expect that individualism (69%), flexibility in working life (92%), self-employment (69%) and inequality in incomes (85%) will increase, while job security (80%), the wage gap between men and women (77%) and public support to unions (61.5%) will decrease.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • income inequality, flexibility, collective bargaining coverage, trade unions, individualism, employers' associations, liberalism, industrial relations, European Works Councils, minimum wages, survey, European Union, foresight, G7, EU27, EU15, EU Commission, EU12, EU, union density, collective bargaining, fack, self-regulation, industrial actions, atypical employment, Eurofound, state regulation, EWC, fackförening, framtidens fack, job security, arbetsliv, framtidens arbetsliv, equal opportunities, Dublininstitutet, self-employment, organisationsgrad, sociology, partsrelationer, år 2025, arbetsgivare
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Sociology, Lund University
Number of pages58
ISBN (Print)91-7267-306-0
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameStudies in Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Working Life and Mobility. Research Reports

Bibliographic note

Anders Kjellbergs hemsida See also Anders Kjellberg "Industrial Relations Foresight 2025: Sweden Compared to EU15, EU12 and Global 7 Countries" (available in LUP) Läs Anna Danielssons artikel om undersökningen i Svenska Dagbladet 20/8 2009: "Dyster framtid väntar facken" Läs även Per Gudmundsons kommentar på Svenska Dagbladets ledarsida 21/8 2009: "Bra fack reder sig själv" Kommunalnytt nr 9, 18/11 2009 sid 4: "Dyster framtidsbild i europeisk studie": Läs här (bläddra fram till sidan 4)

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Anders Kjellberg, 2009, In : Transfer - European Review of Labour and Research. 15, 3-4, p. 481-504 24 p.

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Anders Kjellberg


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