University of Gothenburg
Bild på elektriker 1949
Elektriker, 1949. Källa: Arbetarrörelsens arkiv och bibliotek
Photo: Erik Hilbert

About Swedish wage statistics

Official Swedish labour statistics commenced in 1865 with yearly reports in the official statistics of agriculture relating to annual wages for male and female servants, contract workers (statare) and day labourers. This publication series ended in 1911, but statistics continued in a separate publication – Arbetaretillgång, arbetstid och arbetslön inom Sveriges jordbruk – until 1928. The publication also contained wages for, for example, garden and forestry labour.

Industrial wages were initially reported in Sociala Meddelanden, 1913–1928. From 1928 wages concerning different employment categories in the private sector (farm workers, industrial workers and white collar workers) have been reported in one and the same report series. From 1929–1952 labour statistics were contained within the Lönestatistisk årsbok, from 1953–1985 in Löner, and from 1986–1990 in Löner och sysselsättning.

Compilation methods for wages differed between sectors. In the case of agriculture, the Agricultural Societies (Hushållningssällskapen) collected summary wage information at the county level in 1865–1911, from which the SCB (Statistics Sweden) calculated a country average. In similar ways typical wages in agriculture were reported at the municipal (kommun) or district (härad) levels for the period 1911–1936. These were then aggregated to county and national levels by the Social Board (Socialstyrelsen). Already from the start in 1913, wage statistics outside of the agricultural sector were based on questionnaires that the Social Board sent to a substantial amount of employers, although information from the World War I era is only of a summary nature. The same compilation methodology was adopted by the agricultural sector in 1937. Thereafter wage statistics have been comparable between different economic sectors.

Similarly to other official statistics, wage statistics mirror society’s economic structures and administrative boundaries. Often statistical categories have been based on previous conditions and traditional values about which economic categories have been considered valuable enough to document. As society’s economic, demographic and socioeconomic structures have changed there has, with certain delay, been a reorganization of wage statistics, at which time old table formats have been abandoned, new ones appearing and others modified.

The content of labour wage statistics has also been affected by an early resistance from employers to provide wage information that could be tied to certain companies. A stand motivated by competitive business concerns. A policy to this effect was ratified by the Swedish Employers Federation (Svenska Arbetsgivareföreningen) in 1915 and wage statistics have thereafter had a more aggregated character.

Furthermore, there was among trade unions, employers associations and the Social Board a more significant interest in organizing wage statistics according to business segments and branches, rather than geographical region. Presumably employers and the unions were guided by an interest for an overview of wage statistics within the same business sector/collective agreements, whilst the Social Board was more interested in living standards for different trade and socioeconomic groups.