Globalisation to hit Swedish women

Men in Sweden have so far been the losers as industrial jobs move to cheaper countries. But globalisation is soon about to affect women.

Two weeks ago the tool manufacturer Bahco decided that part of its production would be transferred to Spain and Argentina – just one more example of how globalisation is affecting Sweden. Of the 275 people who will lose their jobs, the majority are men.

“We know how it is in the industry. It’s about 70% men,” said Bahco’s managing director Bertil Engman.

Since the effects of globalisation have so far been most visible in industry, it is primarily men who have been affected. Electrolux, Ericsson and Autoliv are examples of companies which have moved part of their production abroad.

Cecilia Hermansson, the head of forecasting at Föreningssparbanken, believes that the shift is soon to start taking place in the service sector, where a far greater proportion of employees are women.

“First of all it’s accountants, lawyers, consultants and other advisors. Looking forward, women are going to be affected much more than they have been until now,” she said.

Globalisation has already begun to have an impact on certain parts of the labour market which are dominated by women: administration, payroll and similar roles no longer need to be carried out within the company when it is just as easy to email the data to Estonia and have the results back in a day or so.

“Health, schooling and social care, where many women work, will probably be affected more slowly. It depends on to what extent people choose to travel abroad for healthcare, for example. But part of that can move abroad,” said Hermansson.

Today there are already doctors and dentists in, for example, the Baltic countries, Poland, India and Thailand, who offer their services to foreigners. Swedes can get their teeth fixed in Riga and their hips operated on – at high quality and low cost – in Bangkok or New Delhi.

Since 2004 around 1,100 Swedes have travelled to another EU country for healthcare, which they pay for up front themselves and then recover the costs later from the Swedish state. And this development will continue, says Hans Knutsson at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.

“It’s definitely going in that direction. International cooperation is going to grow,” said Knutsson.

Individual councils are already purchasing operations from other councils. And there are discussions at the EU level which will allow countries which specialise in certain high technology treatments to offer them to others.

Then it’s just a small step for councils to buy their operations in India, with the cost – including travel – coming in far lower than if the treatment were carried out in local hospitals.

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TT/The Local