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

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Abstract

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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  • Calmfors, Lars & Forslund, Anders & Hemström, Maria, 2002. "Does active labour market policy work? Lessons from the Swedish experiences," Working Paper Series 2002:4, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifauwp:2002_004
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    1. Jonas Agell & Per Lundborg, 2003. "Survey Evidence on Wage Rigidity and Unemployment: Sweden in the 1990s," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(1), pages 15-30, March.
    2. Calmfors, Lars, 1993. "Lessons from the macroeconomic experience of Sweden," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 25-72, March.
    3. 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.
    4. 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 1-33, March.
    5. Calmfors, Lars & Skedinger, Per, 1995. "Does Active Labour-Market Policy Increase Employment? Theoretical Considerations and Some Empirical Evidence from Sweden," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 91-109, Spring.
    6. Calmfors, Lars, 1995. "Labour market policy and unemployment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 583-592, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Calmfors, Lars & Forslund, Anders, 1991. "Real-Wage Determination and Labour Market Policies: The Swedish Experience," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1130-1148, September.
    9. 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 601-619, May.
    10. Agell, Jonas & Lundborg, Per, 1995. " Theories of Pay and Unemployment: Survey Evidence from Swedish Manufacturing Firms," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(2), pages 295-307, June.
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    Keywords

    active labour market policy; unemployment; employment;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand

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