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Does active labour market policy work? Lessons from the Swedish experiences

The Swedish experiences of the 1990s provide a unique example of how largescale active labour market programmes (ALMPs) have been used as a means to fight high unemployment. This paper discusses the mechanisms through which ALMPs affect (un)employment and surveys the empirical studies of the effects of ALMPs in Sweden. The main conclusions are (i) there is hardly any evidence for a positive effect on matching efficiency; (ii) there are some indications of positive effets on labour force participation; (iii) subsidised employment seems to cause displacement of regular employment, whereas this appears not to be the case for labour market training; (iv) it is unclear whether or not ALMPs raise aggregate wage pressure in the economy; (v) in the 1990s, training programmes seem not to have enhanced the employment probabilities of participants, whereas some forms of subsidised employment seem to have had such effects; and (vi) youth programmes seem to have caused substantial displacement effects at the same time as the gains for participants appear uncertain. On the whole, ALMPs have probably reduced open unemployment, but also reduced regular employment. The overall policy conclusion is that ALMPs of the scale used in Sweden in the 1990s are not an efficient means of employment policy. To be effective, ALMPs should be used on a smaller scale. There should be a greater emphasis on holding down long-term unemployment in general and a smaller emphasis on youth programmes. ALMPs should not be used as a means to renew unemployment benefit eligibility.

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Paper provided by IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy in its series Working Paper Series with number 2002:4.

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Length: 72 pages
Date of creation: 10 Jan 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Swedish Economic Policy Review, 2001, pages 61-124.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2002_004
Contact details of provider: Postal: IFAU, P O Box 513, SE-751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
Phone: (+46) 18 - 471 70 70
Fax: (+46) 18 - 471 70 71
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  1. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
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  4. Mortensen, Dale T & Pissarides, Christopher A, 1994. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 397-415, July.
  5. Fukushima, Yoshihiko, 1998. "Active Labour Market Programmes and Unemployment in a Dual Labour Market," Research Papers in Economics 1998:2, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
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  8. Heckman, James J. & Lalonde, Robert J. & Smith, Jeffrey A., 1999. "The economics and econometrics of active labor market programs," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 31, pages 1865-2097 Elsevier.
  9. Nickell, S. & Layard, R., 1997. "Labour Market Institutions and Economic Performance," Papers 23, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  10. Fredriksson, Peter, 1999. "The Dynamics of Regional Labor Markets and Active Labor Market Policy: Swedish Evidence," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(4), pages 623-48, October.
  11. Holmlund, B. & Linden, J., 1991. "Job Matching, Temporary Public Employment, and Equilibrium Unemployment," Papers 1991l, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  12. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, March.
  13. Calmfors, Lars & Forslund, Anders, 1991. "Real-Wage Determination and Labour Market Policies: The Swedish Experience," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1130-48, September.
  14. Blanchard, Olivier & Wolfers, Justin, 2000. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages C1-33, March.
  15. Calmfors, Lars & Lang, Harald, 1995. "Macroeconomic Effects of Active Labour Market Programmes in a Union Wage-Setting Model," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 105(430), pages 601-19, May.
  16. Barbara Sianesi, 2001. "Differential effects of Swedish active labour market programmes for unemployed adults during the 1990s," IFS Working Papers W01/25, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  17. Olle Westerlund, 1998. "Internal Migration in Sweden: The Effects of Mobility Grants and Regional Labour Market Conditions," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 12(2), pages 363-388, 07.
  18. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1999. "Survey Evidence on Wage Rigidity and Unemployment: Sweden in the 1990s," Working Paper Series 1999:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  19. Carling, Kenneth & Richardson, Katarina, 2001. "The relative efficiency of labor market programs: Swedish experience from the 1990's," Working Paper Series 2001:2, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  20. Carling, Kenneth & Edin, Per-Anders & Harkman, Anders & Holmlund, Bertil, 1996. "Unemployment duration, unemployment benefits, and labor market programs in Sweden," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 313-334, March.
  21. Calmfors, Lars, 1993. "Lessons from the macroeconomic experience of Sweden," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 25-72, March.
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