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Defending the Swedish Model

Social Democrats, Trade Unions, and Labor Migration Policy Reform

Gregg Bucken-Knapp

Across Europe, the prospect of a rapidly shrinking workforce has put increased labor migration back on the political agenda. However, for many on the left, concerns exist that less restrictive labor migration policies threaten core features of the social democratic project. This is perhaps clearest in Sweden, which in late 2008 adopted a liberal approach to third-country national labor migration, allowing employers to hire freely from outside the European Union. Defending the Swedish Model explores the debate leading up to this reform, focusing on the preferences of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) and the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO). While generally positive to the economic potential of increased labor migration, these allies remained highly skeptical towards calls from employers and bourgeois parties for liberalization.

Bucken-Knapp argues that the SAP and LO develop their labor migration policy preferences on the basis of whether specific reform alternatives are perceived as being consistent with, or as undermining, the Swedish model. In the case of third-country nationals, both allies considered liberalization a threat to full employment aims, instead seeking to preserve an influential role for the state labor market board and organized labor. Bucken-Knapp also focuses on the Swedish labor migration debate prior to the 2004 enlargement of the European Union, showing how SAP concerns over potential abuse of the universal welfare state led to its support for transitional arrangements. Defending the Swedish Model illuminates the challenges faced by social democrats and trade unions when considering the need for increased labor migration.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 178Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/8
978-0-7391-3816-8 • Hardback • September 2009 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-0-7391-3818-2 • eBook • September 2009 • $79.00 • (£52.95)
Gregg Bucken-Knapp is senior lecturer in politics at the University of Stirling, UK.
Chapter 1 Chapter One. Labor Migration and Migration Policy
Chapter 2 Chapter Two. Labor Migration and the Preservation of the Swedish Model
Chapter 3 Chapter Three. Rejecting Calls for Deregulation of Labor Migration Policy: LO, the SAP, and the 2002 Parliamentary Election Campaign
Chapter 4 Chapter Four. The Battle to Preserve an Incentive-Compatible Labor Migration Policy
Chapter 5 Chapter Five. Labor Migration and the Eastward Enlargement of the European Union: Understanding the Divergent Preferences of the SAP and LO
Chapter 6 Chapter Six. Labor Migration and the Swedish Model, At Home and Abroad
Defending the Swedish Model provides an insightful and highly original account of Swedish labour migration policy. Gregg Bucken-Knapp's close specification of the relationship between migration, labour markets and the welfare state also means that this book will be of interest to all scholars of contemporary European migration policy and politics.
Andrew Geddes, University of Sheffield

Gregg Bucken-Knapp has written an important study of labor migration policy in Sweden that reveals how strongly the views of the country's social democratic party and trade unions are tied up with its concerns to protect a distinctive "Swedish model" built up over the entire postwar era. This book will be valuable not only for students of Swedish politics but also for anyone interested in understanding the politics of labor migration and the dilemmas of the left in Europe today.
Sheri Berman, Columbia University

A welcome addition to our understanding of changes in the composition of Sweden's labor force, the capacity of states to regulate labor in a global age, and which groups advocate differing directions of change at critical-decision making moments in the evolution of the Swedish model of welfare capacity.
Scandinavian Studies