The goal of full employment

Labour market


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High employment rate

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For the Swedish Trade Union Confederation full employment means that all those who are willing and able to work should have a job and one job should be sufficient to live on. No-one should need to be unemployed for any more than short periods. But it is not enough to have low unemployment. For the concept of full employment to be meaningful it is also necessary that the percentage of employed people in the population, the employment rate, is high. The more people in work, the better the outlook for financing public welfare. The goal should therefore also be to keep the employment rate high enough to finance generous public welfare provision.

Full, high and evenly distributed employment

The unemployment and employment rates are broad measures that may mask large differences between different groups. For example, the overall employment rate may be high, while women have a lower employment rate than men or while foreign born people have a considerably lower employment rate than native born. The aim should therefore be to minimise these and other differences, so that the unemployment and employment rates are as equally distributed among different groups as possible.

In combination, this means that economic policy should focus on full, high and evenly distributed employment. We consider that ambitious targets should be set. Historically Sweden has experienced a long period that can be said to have been characterised by full employment – the unemployment rate between 1970 and 1990 varied between 2 and 4 per cent and the employment rate was more than 85 per cent in the late 1980s. Even today there are countries that achieve unemployment levels of 3 and 5 per cent with employment rates above 80 per cent. In Sweden there are also groups characterised by very low unemployment and a high employment rate. All in all, in our opinion this implies that full employment would mean an unemployment rate of between 2 and 4 per cent and an employment rate of at least 85 per cent

The LO Executive Council proposes the following:

  • The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that economic policy is focused on full, high and evenly distributed employment.
  • The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that unemployment at most moves within the interval of two to four per cent over an economic cycle
  • The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the employment rate for 20–64 year-olds is a minimum of 85 per cent
  • The Swedish Trade Union Confederation shall work to ensure that the differences in the unemployment and employment rates for different groups are minimised. Examples of these differences are those due to gender, ethnicity, geography, educational level and social background.

Read more in the Congress Report Full employment and a wage policy of solidarity (pdf)

More information about the Congress here.