NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Swedish Wage Stucture: The Rise and Fall of Solidarity Wage Policy?

Per-Anders Edin, Bertl Holmlund

NBER Working Paper No. 4257
Issued in January 1993
NBER Program(s):   LS

Wage inequality in Sweden declined precipitously during the 1960s and the 1970s. There was a sharp reduction in overall wage dispersion and in the relative earnings advantage of highly-educated workers, a marked narrowing of wage differences between men and women, and a trend increase in youth relative wages. There was also a substantial narrowing of wage differentials among workers within broad occupational and educational groups. The trend decline in wage inequality was broken in the 1980s. Wage differentials along several dimensions have widened modestly from the rnid-1980s to the early 1990s. Much of the Swedish discussion has taken it for granted that the pay compression has been driven by the egalitarian ambitions of strong and coordinated trade unions. Our analysis of the Swedish wage structure suggests that institutions are only part of the story. We show that conventional demand and supply factors can go a substantial way towards explaining some key relative wage movements in Sweden.

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