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Workforce Reductions in Theory and Practice: The Swedish Tobacco Monopoly in the 1920s


  • Karlsson, Tobias


The aim of this paper is to clarify and discuss the various ways firms can make workforce reductions. This aim is accomplished by an in-depth study of an historical case; the downsizing process undertaken in the 1920s by the Swedish Tobacco Monopoly, a state-owned company that had to balance between rational business conduct and social responsibility. The paper makes use of qualitative sources, such as board minutes and memos, and a database covering all blue-collar workers in one of the company’s factories. The paper adresses conceptual questions concerning how to theoretically and empirically distinguish between various reduction strategies and tactics. Its main contribution is to move beyond the simple characterization of reductions as being either smooth or harsh and instead emphasize the multitude of management choices involved in reducing headcount and, consequently, the diversity of downsizing processes.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlsson, Tobias, 2012. "Workforce Reductions in Theory and Practice: The Swedish Tobacco Monopoly in the 1920s," MPRA Paper 39235, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39235

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-254, May.
    2. Parsons, Donald O, 1972. "Specific Human Capital: An Application to Quit Rates and Layoff Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(6), pages 1120-1143, Nov.-Dec..
    3. Hamilton, Barton & MacKinnon, Mary, 1996. "Quits and Layoffs in Early Twentieth Century Labor Markets," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 346-366, July.
    4. Eric W. Zitzewitz, 2003. "Competition and Long-run Productivity Growth in the UK and US Tobacco Industries, 1879-1939," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 1-33, March.
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    More about this item


    personnel management; workforce reductions; downsizing; tobacco industry; Sweden; inter-war period;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • N8 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence

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