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Does Active Labour Market Policy Work? Lessons from the Swedish Experiences

  • Calmfors, Lars


    (Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University)

  • Forslund, Anders


    (IFAU/Uppsala University)

  • Hemström, Maria



The Swedish experiences of the 1990s provide a unique example of how large-scale 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 effects 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 Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies in its series Seminar Papers with number 700.

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Length: 63 pages
Date of creation: 24 Mar 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iiessp:0700
Contact details of provider: Postal: Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-8-162000
Fax: +46-8-161443
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  1. 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.
  2. Holmlund, B. & Linden, J., 1991. "Job Matching, Temporary Public Employment, and Equilibrium Unemployment," Papers 1991l, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  3. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  4. Newell, A. & Symons, J. S. V., 1987. "Corporatism, laissez-faire and the rise in unemployment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 567-601, April.
  5. 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.
  6. Fredriksson, P., 1995. "The Dynamics of Regional Labour Markets and Active Labour Market Policy: Swedish Evidence," Papers 1995-20, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  7. 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.
  8. Calmfors, Lars, 1995. "Labour market policy and unemployment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 583-592, April.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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, 03.
  12. 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.
  13. Richard Layard & Stephen Nickell, 1998. "Labour Market Institutions and Economic Performance," CEP Discussion Papers dp0407, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  14. 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.
  15. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 1991. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284345.
  16. 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.
  17. Dale T. Mortensen & Christopher A. Pissarides, 1993. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," CEP Discussion Papers dp0110, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  18. Calmfors, Lars, 1993. "Lessons from the macroeconomic experience of Sweden," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 25-72, March.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
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