High unemployment rate among young people in Sweden

Published Updated
Copy link for sharing

Unemployment rate among young people is high in Sweden. A new LO report shows that young people’s conditions vary, as regards the way out in working life.
Due to several circumstances, the issue of young people’s employment and unemployment is of special interest today. Firstly, young people are currently in a situation when the greatest baby boom of the 20th century - those born in the 1940s - retire, at the same time as another large group - those born in the 1990s - enter the labour market. How will this influence the labour force and the structure of jobs?

Another aspect is that this change partly takes place during a recession, which is deeper and more structural than most people have predicted. Sweden has a very high rate of unemployment among young people in an international perspective. This can be confusing, as Sweden has historically had a high rate of employment and a low rate of unemployment, even as regards groups which are far away from labour market.

Moreover, young labour has been affected by a structural change. 15 years ago the vocational programmes of upper secondary school were prolonged by one year. This means that all upper secondary school programmes, theoretical as well as vocational, now include three years. Also, the percentage of those with at least one year of studies after upper secondary school has increased from about 23 per cent in 1990 to about 40 per cent in 2008 in the age group 25-29 years.

During the same period the age of getting established in working life (defined as the age when 75 per cent have a job) has increased from 21 to 26 years. There are consequently a number of both interesting and alarming aspects related to the establishment of young people in working life.

An approach that is difficult to support with examples but one that stands out when creating a comprehensive picture of young people’s working conditions, is that the idea of who is young and who is adult has shifted in society. In the 1980s, labour-market policy for young people was directed to teenagers. Today, a person who is 24 years old and who has been gainfully employed for five years or so is placed in a special youth programme and gets a lower unemployment benefit than a 30-year-old person, who has worked for one year. Is it simply so that society does not expect a 24-year-old person to be adult?

There are many questions to be put. The main question in this report is whether young adults are a homogenous group or whether unemployment is a problem affecting young people differently?

In the course of the research it has become obvious how children’s different conditions already in the nine-year compulsory school influence their possibilities later in life. Many young people succeed however both in school and while entering the labour market after a few years. Entering the labour market takes place later, probably due to long studies and to the fact that the unemployment rate among young people is high. But most people who finish upper secondary school either study or work a few years thereafter.

Another question is what measures are needed to get more young people in work: general measures or selective measures for different groups of young people?

There is no evident solution as regards getting young people in working life. This report accounts for studies on young people’s conditions and illustrates statistics on differences and trends as regards young people’s training, establishment in the labour market and employment. This is done in an effort to understand what has happened in the labour market for young people.