Beyond Retrenchment : Multi-Pillarization of Unemployment Benefit Provision in Sweden

Sammanfattning: The unemployed in Sweden today have to relate to several types of benefit schemes. Apart from the public unemployment insurance program, different workplaces are covered by different complementary benefit arrangements regulated by collective agreements between employer and union organizations. These Employment Transitional Agreements have existed since the 1970s but have expanded further in scope to include the entire labor market. Besides this occupational welfare arrangement, there are complementary income insurance schemes that the majority of labor unions provide for their members, covering half of the working population today. These are meant to top-up the benefits from the public unemployment insurance program or prolong the benefit payment period. Complementary income insurance schemes first appeared in the late 1990s and expanded quickly during the last fifteen years. While union-provided, group-based insurance schemes dominate the market, there are also private income insurance plans operating based on risk assessment and premium-setting practices on the individual level.This dissertation addresses the questions of how and why these complementary benefits for the unemployed developed and their distributive outcomes. As the public unemployment insurance program has continued to retrench since the 1990s in terms of benefit generosity, coverage as well as recipiency rate, understanding the role of the occupational and private pillars providing the complementary benefits and the interactions between these becomes crucial if we want to understand the actual outcome of the unemployment benefit provision system as a whole.Theoretically, this dissertation accounts for the institutional changes and outcomes of the Swedish unemployment benefit provision system through a multi-pillar perspective. The pillar perspective helps us analyze changes despite relatively stable institutional structure of the Swedish public unemployment insurance program, by highlighting the new roles and distributive logics of the newer loci of the unemployment benefit provision system. Without launching a sweeping statutory institutional reform, the division of responsibility over income protection for the unemployed has been redefined between the state, unions, individuals and market actors – which has implications for the outcomes of unemployment protection.Empirically, the dissertation provides a comprehensive overview of the different pillars of the Swedish unemployment benefit provision system today and analyzes the interactions between the pillars as well as the distributive implications of the system. Moreover, the dissertation explores the outcome of multi-pillarization through a benefit recipiency study targeting unemployed retail workers, using both register as well as survey data.The results highlight that in spite of the institutionalization of both the occupational and private pillars formally achieving a comprehensive coverage for a large part of the working population, in practice there is not only differentiated access to the complementary benefits across different occupations and sectors but also different barriers and mechanisms leading to certain groups of individuals becoming disentitled from the institutionalized unemployment protection system. This gap between the output-level of multi-pillarization and the outcome of the Swedish unemployment benefit provision system may be accounted for by the specific path to multi-pillarization that has been strongly shaped by the institutional legacies of the Ghent system, where unions have played a significant role, as well as labor market developments characterized by a dualization tendency.