Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
  Hem Aktuellt  Tidigare nummer Bli Medlem  Annonsera Om Historisk Tidskrift  För skribenter  Föreningen In English

Historisk tidskrift 126:3 • 2007

Innehåll (Contents) 2007:1

Uppsatser (Articles)

Sjukförsäkring och sjuklön. Om statliga beslut och arbetsmarknadens organisationer 1955–1992

Per Gunnar Edebalk

Fulltext (pdf)


Health insurance and sick pay. On state decisions and labour market organizations 1955–1992

In 1955, national health insurance was introduced in Sweden. Through this reform employers believed that existing agreements on sick pay could be terminated. Certain groups on the labour market – privately employed white-collar workers and publicly employed blue-collar and white-collar workers – found that the terms offered by the new national health insurance were worse than their existing agreements with their employers. They refused to agree to a change for the worse, and in negotiations with the employers they managed to secure a supplementary sick pay. Privately employed workers received sickness benefit only from the national health insurance, for which there was a qualifying period of three days, and the amount received was relatively modest. LO, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, tried to obtain supplementary sick pay by contract, but the employers refused. The close link between the social democratic government and the trade union movement instead led to improvements for the workers through the national health insurance. Later the workers managed to get supplementary health insurance in their employment contracts, but only after the government and parliament had made this insurance tax-free.

In the 1980s privately employed workers once again received supplementary sick pay in their contracts. In connection with this the government and parliament decided, after lobbying from employers and unions, to eliminate the qualifying period in the health insurance. This made it easier to introduce sick pay in employment contracts, and from 1988 virtually all groups on the labour market had 100 per cent coverage for their salary in the event of illness. This high compensation quota led to increased levels of sick leave. The employers then tried to introduce an excess in the national health insurance. When this failed, the employers began to plead for statutory sick pay in order to have better control of sick leave.

Around 1990 there was a drastic change in the Swedish economy, and the high costs of health insurance began to be questioned. In 1990 the politicians took command: levels of compensation were reduced, a sick pay period and a qualifying period were introduced, and a maximum level for supplementary contractual compensation was established. This was a clear departure from “the Swedish model”. The unions reacted vehemently against this reform, but they were left outside the political process. This too was a departure from “the Swedish model”.


Sweden, social insurance, contractual insurances, health insurance, sick pay