Translation from Swedish by Andreas Lindahl
In 1995, TAM-Arkiv published a collection of professional memories that shed light on the professional lives of employment officers and how their work has changed. A lot has happened since then – should it be time for a new memorial collection of professional memories?
“Arbetsförmedling under sju decennier: arbetsförmedlare berättar” (Eng. ”The public employment service for seven decades: employment officers in their own words”; not in translation) is the title of a collection of professional memories that was carried out in collaboration between Arbetets museum (the Museum of Work), TAM (the Archives and Museum of white-collar workers) and the Union of Civil Servants (ST). It was in the mid-90s that the book was published – amidst a recession. It was through an appeal in ST’s monthly Statstjänstemannen that employment officers were encouraged to talk about their lives and work. The petition resulted in 24 bids from both active professionals and retired employment officers.
The collection of memories gave a fairly good description of how the employment profession had changed from the 1930s to the 1990s. The employment officers testify that their professional role has changed a lot during their working life.
The development of the Public Employment Service can be broken down into different periods. From 1902 to 1940 the business was run with municipal responsibility. During the period after 1940 until 1993, the state was the principal. Privately run employment agencies existed to some extent until 1936. In those years, however, employment agencies conducted for profit were prohibited. In 1993, the state monopoly on employment services was abolished and private employment agencies were established again.
The earliest professional memories are about working conditions in the 1930s. Two of the writers have memories of this time. At that time, there were s so-called AK works (relief works). These were public works for the unemployed that were paid significantly less than regular jobs. State Unemployment Commission (AK, Statens Arbetslöshetskommission) was established in 1914 for the central coordination of unemployment policy.
A writer describes his father’s work as chairman of a local AK committee in a small northern community where unemployment was a major problem. Her father distributed benefits to the unemployed and, in some cases, food stamps. There was great distress among the low-paid AK workers.
During this time, the general perception was that the cause of unemployment was excessive wages. But despite low-paid AK jobs, unemployment did not disappear. Instead, the problem grew. Criticism of the policy then emerged. In 1933, the so-called crisis agreement was reached between the Social Democrats and the Farmers’ Union. The agreement was the starting point for a more active labour market policy.
During the Second World War and – even more so after the war – the public employment service expanded further.
Many employment officers who appear in the book talk about how things have improved during their lives. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, there was a paternalistic attitude towards applicants. In the 1970s, this changed slightly. But during the time the book was published – the 1990s – there was another recession and unemployment became very extensive. Many writers describe the employment profession during this period as difficult and tiring at a time when the number of vacancies was far from enough.
It is an interesting publication TAM-Arkiv has published. Perhaps it can also tell us something about today’s society? Unemployment has remained a problem and maybe it’s time for a new collection of professional memories…?
TAGS: #book #state #monopolyonemploymentservices #tamarkiv #tamarkivsverige #arbetetsmuseum #collaboration #professionalmemories #labourmarketpolicies #unemployment #leifjacobsson #reliefworks