A budget without ambition


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Despite strong public finances in Sweden the government, in the budget bill for 2011 as before, is holding back effective measures to combat unemployment. It continues its non-committal policy, which particularly affects young people about to enter working life, as well as those in long-term unemployment, says Wanja Lundby-Wedin.
The most obvious example of the lack of ambition is the basic absence of retraining measures for the unemployed. Instead, there is an exaggerated confidence in the effects of coaching. Criticism has also been directed at the government, even internationally, on the grounds of its insufficient aid to persons with disabilities. Subsidies in the form of wage support, as well as training incentives, would be needed to ensure that more permanent employment opportunities can be created for persons with disabilities, Wanja Lundby-Wedin continues.

The government's investments will total 13 billion SEK during 2011. However, the public finances could allow for an investment of twice that amount. According to a government prognosis, the unemployment rate will be 8.0 percent in 2011, while the predicted decrease in unemployment will only be 0.5 percentage points between 2011 and 2012.

There is a need and also scope for a skills development scheme for unemployed adults. It should include, for instance, the creation of 20,000 places monthly in labour market training programmes. Research has shown that these programmes produce good results. Consequently, the only reason for the government's lack of interest in these programmes seems to be its continued policy to hold down wages and conditions, instead of investing in skills enhancement for workers. The ambition should be to provide everyone with the possibility of secure and rewarding jobs, and the possibility to change jobs through skills improvement. According to Wanja Lundby-Wedin, while also benefiting wage-earners, such a policy is necessary to strengthen Sweden's competitiveness.