Labour Market Regimes and Patterns of Flexibility

A Sweden–Canada Comparison


200 kr

The flexibility of labour has become a central issue in current debates about international competitiveness. One underlying question concerns the relationship between labour market (in)security and labour’s adaptability to industrial change, from the implementation of new technology and organizational reform to the handling of economic restructuring and redundancies.

This book offers a first-ever empirical assessment of two diametrically opposed beliefs about this crucial relationship: the ”neoclassical” assumption that a certain degree of insecurity to motivate labour to adjust and the ”institutionalist” assumption that, to the contrary, the best way to ensure labour’s cooperation is to offer a certain level of employment and earnings security in exchange.

In a detailed comparison of a variety of indicators of adaptability to change in Sweden and Canada the authors show that neither of these widely held theories can account for the differences and similarities found. Instead, their results suggest a ”neocorporatist” explanation for the different responses to industrial change of unions and workers in the two countries. The authors conclude that each country appears to have evolved its own ”labour market regime”: quite different constellations of interlocking institutions, customs, policies and attitudes that nevertheless produce roughly similar outcomes in terms of overall labour flexibility.


Axel van den Berg is Associate Professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Bengt Furåker is Professor of sociology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Leif Johansson teaches sociology at the University of Umeå, Sweden.