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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: January 2010



The Swedish economy is the paradigmatic corporatist economy. There is very little disagreement in existing scholarship about this characterization and the position of the Swedish wage bargaining system vis-à-vis those of other countries. Most scholars place Sweden at the top of the corporatist scale. Two features of the wage bargaining system account for its high values on the corporatism score: First, for much of the postwar period, the wage setting process in Sweden was extremely centralized; second, Sweden has the highest levels of density for both labor and employer organizations.

Sweden shares high values for existing indicators of corporatism with other northern European countries, including Denmark, Norway, and Finland. An important difference in labor market institutions between Sweden and these economies is the lower level of state involvement in wage bargaining negotiations (Elvander 1979, 1983). Sweden has boasted a strong historical tradition of independence in the wage bargaining process that is jealously guarded by both unions and employers (Edgren, Faxen, and Odhner 1973: 29). In 1953, the Swedish trade union confederation, Landsorganisationen i Sverige (LO), argued that “there are few countries where the principle of state nonintervention in the affair of the trade unions is as deep-rooted as in Sweden” (LO 1953: 88). While recent wage bargaining rounds mark an interesting deviation from this norm, it is too early to assess whether they have brought about a permanent change in the dynamics of the wage setting process.