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Constrained Politics: Labour Market Actors, Political Parties and Swedish Labour Immigration Policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2017


Sweden used to be one of the most restrictive countries in the Organisation of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in terms of labour immigration policy. This was drastically changed in 2008 when a very liberal immigration law was passed. Why did one of the most restrictive labour immigration countries suddenly become one of the most liberal ones? The article argues that it is necessary to consider labour market institutions and their consequences for labour migration. These factors will influence the preferences, strategies and chances of success for various policy actors. A decline in union power and corporatism in Sweden had important consequences for its labour immigration. Following this decline, employers and centre-right parties became more active and adopted more liberal policy positions than previously. The article analyses policy developments since the 1960s and draws on official documents, position statements, party manifestos, media coverage and original elite interviews.

Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Government and Opposition Limited and Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Frida Boräng is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg. Contact email:

Lucie Cerna is an Analyst in the Directorate for Education and Skills of the OECD, Paris and a Research Associate at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, Oxford. Contact email: The views in this article are my own and should not be regarded as representing the views of the OECD or COMPAS.


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