Attempting Institutional Change: Swedish Apprenticeship, 1890–1917

Sandra Hellstrand

Abstract


Sweden never got an apprentice law after apprenticeship was de-regulated in 1864. This has been attributed to unified opposition to legislation from industry employers and trade unions, with the craft employers as the only advocates. Analysing the pattern of agreement and disagreement in the political struggle over apprenticeship in the Swedish case in 1890–1917, it is clear that opposition was not that uniform, nor was the support from the craft employers that undivided. This article makes use of Kathleen Thelen’s model of institutional change in order to shed new light on the developments in Sweden. The model states that any apprentice law requires a coalition of two or more out of the state, the crafts and the metalworking industries – divided into employers and workers. Legislation, in turn, is a near requirement for the survival of strong apprenticeship. In this article the Swedish case will be discussed in relation to two of Thelen’s cases, Germany and Great Britain. In Germany an apprentice law was passed in 1897, while in Great Britain no modern apprentice law was ever passed. Similarities can be found between both of these cases and the Swedish case.

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