Anders Kjellberg has been a member of TAM-Arkiv’s research council for many years. He has solid knowledge of how the Swedish trade union movement is organized and makes comparisons with other countries. Among other things, he has often visited France for over 20 years to interview trade union representatives there. He is Professor of Sociology at Lund University.
The French think tank Institut Montaigne, which Kjellberg describes as a liberal think tank, contacted him earlier this year. This led to the think tank publishing a research article by him in September. In the article, Anders Kjellberg compares the trade unions in Sweden and France. The article is published in English. In addition, it is published in French in a longer version.
Kjellberg says that much of what we are accustomed to about the role of trade unions in Swedish society, such as the fact that it is almost self-evident for a large part of the workforce to be a member of a trade union, is perceived as interesting and surprising in France. The degree of trade union membership in Sweden is the second highest in the world, second only to Iceland.
“Despite the fact that Sweden has a significantly smaller population than France, there are more trade union members in Sweden than in France,” says Anders Kjellberg.
“Something else that has aroused interest in France is how well the representatives of employees and employers in Sweden often cooperate.”
”Of course, things can get heated in Sweden as well, such as when the Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Sw. Vårdförbundet) went on strike for a long time in 2008. But compared to France, strikes are very rare in Sweden. Another difference is that when there is a strike in Sweden, the Swedish unions have well-stocked conflict funds.” says Anders Kjellberg.
Historically, a political and religious division in France
Anders Kjellberg explains that the French trade unions have traditionally been socialist, communist or Catholic. They compete to a large extent for the same members.
”This is dividing the French trade union movement. For many members, it is far from obvious which union they should choose to join.”
When Anders Kjellberg compares Sweden and other countries, it is the high degree of unionization of the Swedish unions for white-collar workers and academics that he sees as the most interesting and different from other countries. In many countries, many white-collar workers and academics feel that there is no trade union in which they feel at home.
Text: Lars Carlén