Young Swedish workers abandon unions

Only one in three young Swedes are union members, compared to 80 percent in the same age group only 15 years ago, according to a new report.

Unions have long been prominently in the Swedish labour market, but it appears that younger workers don’t feel the same affinity for union membership as previous generations.

New numbers from The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO) show that only 35 percent of workers aged 16 to 24 are members of unions that are a part of the confederation, the Metro newspaper reported.

In the mid-1990s, the figure was nearly 80 percent.

Lund University sociology professor Anders Kjellberg attributed the drop in part to the growth of more “individualistic” tendencies in the job market, as well as changes to the costs of joining a union.

In 2007, the fees for Sweden’s unemployment insurance funds (a-kassa) were increased, and at the same time tax reductions for a-kassa and union fees were abolished.

“Many weighed the benefits against the costs and chose not to take part in the union,” Kjellberg told the newspaper.

“For someone to pay union fees and a-kassa for nearly 700 kronor ($100) a month, the union needs to be visible and show that it is beneficial.”

Another reason for the reluctance among young workers to joining unions is the fact that many don’t stay in at one job for an extended period of time.

In 1990, 476,000 Swedes between the age of 16 and 24 had permanent full-time jobs. As of 2010, however, the figure had dropped to 200,000 within the same demographic.

“Young people barely have time to contact the unions before time comes to change work place,” Kjellberg told Metro.

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Sweden heads for economic slowdown EU warns

The European Union has warned that Sweden's economy is facing a marked slowdown, with unemployment set to rise above seven percent as companies cut back on investment.

Sweden heads for economic slowdown EU warns
Jobseekers entering an office of the Swedish Public Employment Service back in 2016, when the economy was booming. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The August 2019 economic forecast from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs sees the rate of growth of Sweden's real GDP dropping to one percent next year.
This is slower than what is expected for all but four of the other 28 European Union members, and well below the brisk  four percent rate the country enjoyed back in 2015. 
“Sweden’s economy is clearly slowing down. Domestic demand and investment in particular are weak,” the report read, blaming the insipid domestic demand on a decline in investment in the housing market following years of strong growth. 
The slowing economy had also pushed Swedish manufacturers to hold back on investments in equipment, exacerbating the decline. 
The authors pointed out that planned government spending would do little to pick up the slack. 
“In spite of sizeable spending needs for schools, health care and welfare services linked to demographic developments, general government consumption is set to moderate in 2019 and 2020,” the report read. 
“Costs linked to migration should decrease, whereas new defence and health care expenses, priorities of the 2019 budget, are partially compensated by cutbacks on, among other items, labour market and environmental measures.” 
While the report predicted that growth would start to pick up again in 2021, it warned that this recovery could be knocked off course by bad news internationally. 
“As the Swedish business cycle is closely aligned to that of its main trading partners, a deterioration of the external environment would weigh on the export sector,” it read. 
Real GDP in Germany and Belgium was also predicted to grow by just 1 percent in 2020, while Italy was expected to see a still more anaemic 0.04 percent growth rate. Every other EU country was predicted to grow faster, with Romania seeing the fastest growth at 3.6 percent.