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Swedish labour mobility lab

Research group
Active research
Project size
16 million SEK
Project period
2021 - 2026
Project owner
Department of Business Administration, School of Business, Economics and Law

Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare

Short description

Facilitating individuals’ transitions from declining to expanding jobs is a central aspect of a well-working labour market during structural change. However, we still have limited knowledge in which ways people enter jobs that grow on regional labour markets, the main frictions stalling labour mobility, and conditions of work after having entered the growing jobs. The objective of this program is to establish the Swedish Labour Mobility Lab. The aim of the Swedish labour mobility lab is to combine contemporary datasets and historical insights to map the labour mobility structures into expanding jobs in Sweden to increase our understanding of the ways in which skills, gender norms and geography affect who enters expanding jobs, in which ways, and under which working conditions.


Martin Henning, professor (project leader), School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg.
Zoltán Elekes, doctor, Umeå university
Kerstin Enflo, professor, Lund university
Rikard Eriksson, professor, Umeå university
Emelie Hane-Wiejman, doctor, Umeå university
Hanna Martin, doctor,  School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg.
Jakob Molinder, doctor, Uppsala university

Overall aim

The overall aim of the Swedish Labour Mobility Lab is to combine unique contemporary datasets and historical insights to map the labour mobility structures into expanding jobs in Sweden, and increase the understanding of the ways in which skills, gender norms and geography affect who enters expanding jobs, in which ways, and under which working conditions.

Background and aim

Periods of structural change have always carried transaction costs for individuals, firms and regions when adjusting to new ways of work and demand for new skills. Workers with obsolete skills in declining industries often face difficulties finding new employment opportunities, whereas growing firms may face difficulties finding the workers and skills needed to produce new goods and services. Governments often meets challenges in coping with these structural imbalances and matching challenges in the labour market, facing increasing costs for unemployment and re-skilling initiatives.

This is a key challenge also during our present ‘fourth industrial revolution’. Changes in skill demand, prevalence of excluding work norms and habits, and a changing job geography add to the varying obstacles that people face as growing jobs need to be populated. In Sweden, for example, projected job growth now will take place along the Northern coast as a consequence of a series of large technology-intensive investments. Still, the ability to recruit workers has proved to be difficult due to a local shortage in supply, matching-deficiencies, and a reluctance of migrating to these jobs.

The ambition with this program is to better understand the frictions facing the workforce in relation to structural changes. While quite some research has been devoted to assessing effects of redundancies and lay-offs, there is a scarcity of research on the process of employment in new and growing jobs.

Research questions

The Swedish Labour Mobility Lab will address the following research questions.
On the issue of skills-frictions to labour mobility because skills required for a job differ:

  • Which skills characterize jobs that grow, and that employers want to grow?
  • To what extent do skills in growing jobs overlap with those in declining jobs, in which dimensions and how does this differ between job combinations?
  • Which individuals, considering their skill backgrounds, find it easier to enter growing jobs, and how do their skill backgrounds affect their post-entry performance in growing jobs?
  • How fast were job-turnovers on historical labour markets, and how/what skills were valued in the first three industrial revolutions compared to today?
  • To what extent will the Covid-19 crisis change which skills characterize jobs that grow, and that employers want to grow?

On the issue of gender norms-frictions to labour mobility because norms differ between occupations and industries:

  • With regard to both wages and gender balance, do growing jobs serve to equalize gender differences on the labour market, or reinforce them?
  • What type of mobility process creates a skewed or balanced gender situation in growing jobs, with regard to who enters and who stays in the jobs in the short and medium run?
  • How persistent were gender norms on historical labour markets compared to today?
  • What were the characteristics of regions, employers and individuals that were pioneering new gender norms on the labour market?
  • Are there best-practice employers in terms of gender balance of growing jobs today? What are the economic and HR-characteristics of these employers? Is there convergence towards these best-practice employers over time?

On the issue of geography-frictions to labour mobility because the geography of growing jobs is often different from that of contracting jobs:

  • Are growing jobs filled from inside or outside the region? What regional characteristics impacts this balance?
  • How are people that overcome and transcend geographical frictions to enter growing jobs compensated?
  • Do the skill profiles of growing jobs differ across regions? How does this affect the regional matching processes?
  • How did individuals respond to technological change in historical periods, by moving or by changing occupation?
  • How were historically pioneering regions able to attract qualified workers, and what happened to those without the required skills?
  • To what extent will the Covid-19 crisis change the regional matching processes?

Quantitative data from five sources

To address the research questions, the Swedish Labour Mobility Lab draws on five major sources of quantitative data:

  1. Statistics Sweden maintains register data on the levels of individuals. This data is made available for research following permission granted by Statistics Sweden. In the individual register data, each individual active on the Swedish labour market is recorded each year, accompanied by a range of variables on the individual level.
  2. The Lab will make use of firm register data provided by Statistics Sweden. This dataset provides encompassing information about all firms in the Swedish economy. Among the variables supplied annually are size and distribution of the firms and their plants, industry affiliation, locational information and wide range of financial variables, including firm-level value added.
  3.  As a part of their JobTech initiative, the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) has made all job ads (platsannonser) freely available for analysis (“Historical Jobs”), including full text job descriptions and required skill profiles.
  4. The project will utilize full-count census data (Folkräkningar) from SweCens that are provided by the Swedpop project and the North Atlantic Population Project (NAPP). Censuses are continuously being digitized and currently datasets are made available for benchmark years from 1880 to 1950.
  5. To supplement the contemporary data further, information about the changing landscape of skill-demand will be collected from job ads in two main historical sources. Digitized newspaper material is available from Kungliga Bibliotekets tidningstjänst. From the digitized material, data about job advertisements and demand for skills will be collected. To supplement these newspaper ads, Riksvakanslistan (a publication preceding Platsjournalen, which collected job ads in printed form) that was published for the first time in 1906 will reveal information about jobs available and skill content demanded.