in: Socio-economic review, Volume 17, Issue 4, p. 947-968
ISSN: 1475-1461 (print), 1475-147X (electronic)
AbstractOver the past 25 years, Sweden has gone from having one of the most generous unemployment benefit systems among the rich democracies to one of the least. This article advances a multi-causal explanation for this unexpected outcome. It shows how the benefit system became a target of successive right-wing governments due to its role in fostering social democratic hegemony. Employer groups, radicalized by the turbulent 1970s more profoundly than elsewhere, sought to undermine the system, and their abandonment of corporatism in the early 1990s limited unions' capacity to restrain right-wing governments in retrenchment initiatives. Two further developments help to explain the surprising political resilience of the cuts: the emergence of a private (supplementary) insurance regime and a realignment of working-class voters from the Social Democrats to parties of the right, especially the nativist Sweden Democrats, in the context of a liberal refugee/asylum policy.