Swedish working life underwent major changes in the 1990s, changes that related both to the economic recession and to the ongoing structural transformation of Swedish industry. For many people this has led to more enjoyable jobs with a greater degree of responsibility and more interesting tasks. At the same time, however, the demands imposed on employees and the pace of work have steadily increased. A lot of people cannot keep up. It is difficult to combine a demanding job with family and friends and the time we need to recharge our batteries.
Stress has become our new national disease, and there are many indications that the high pace of work is a major contributing factor. Both men and women should be able to combine work and family life on the same terms and still fit together the various pieces that make up the puzzle of their lives. In order to make this possible, individuals must be given more influence over their working hours and the way work isorganised.
There is a risk that there will be a shortage of labour in Sweden in a few years time. In this situation, it will only be possible to maintain acceptable levels of growth and welfare if we make it easier and more attractive for older people to go on working. Today, less than half of those in the 60-64 age group work. It must also become easier for people with a foreign background to get jobs that match their competence. Working life must be developed so that everyone’s knowledge and experience is put to good use. The exclusion and elimination of people from the labour market that is so prevalent today represents a tragic waste of resources.