The difference in salaries between young and middle-aged Swedes has reached a record high, according to a new report that daily DN has looked at.

Young Swedes make only 74 percent of what older Swedes do. This, while youth unemployment has become an even greater problem. In the spring of 2012, Folkpartiet (the Liberal People’s Party) joined Centern (the Center Party) in their demand to lower young people’s salaries, as a way to get more young people out on the job market. Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberal People’s Party as well as Minister for Education and Deputy Prime Minister, asked municipalities and counties to initiate youth salaries equivalent of 75 percent of a starting salary. The issue is also of current interest in the round of wage negotiations, where Handels (the Commercial Employees’ Union) demands higher starting salaries which would benefit young people. Meanwhile the employers in Svensk Handel (the Swedish Trade Federation) resist and want instead bigger gaps in salaries.


Young people’s salaries are however already way below middle-aged workers, according to the report “Vid arbetslivets gränser,” which was ordered by the parliamentary social inquiry. The report spotlights how working life in Sweden has changed between 1974 and 2010. “We want to know what the job market looks like today. There are many myths but not many statistics,” says the main secretary of the report, Irene Wennermo. In terms of salaries, young Swedes, aged 20-29, are compared with middle-aged men with senior high school education, aged 30-54. In the beginning of the measured period, 1974, the salaries of the young Swedes were 79 percent of that of the older ones. The differences then decreased until 1981, when they increased year by year. Professor in sociology at Stockholm University, Michael Tåhlin, is one of the writers behind the report, and he says: “The demand of young people on the job market has obviously diminished. Simpler jobs are getting fewer, but they are still there. The problem is that even the simpler jobs are occupied with people with higher education.”

One of the reasons for the youth unemployment is that more and more are getting longer and longer educations and when they are done they have problems getting jobs at the level of their education. “Those with higher educations have to go down even lower in the job structure, and that’s when the simpler jobs aren’t enough,” Thålin adds. One solution to the problem could be to increase the number of more qualified jobs, then the competition for the simpler jobs would decrease in favor to those without education. But proposals from the politicians are often not aimed at the unqualified jobs. “Politicians have greater influence when it comes to basic jobs, and it’s much easier to expand those. There is no shortage of work in Sweden when it comes to health care, for instance,” Thålin concludes.