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The dynamics of public welfare: industrial accident insurance in Sweden, 1880-1939

Research project With the industrialization, new occupational hazards emerged that exposed workers to the increased risk of death or injury. Statistical records from the turn of the twentieth century show that over one-tenth of all workers in heavy industries were involved in industrial accidents each year.

Many industrial urban workers lacked the community support networks common in rural society, and as such, they needed protection against loss of earnings due to death or disability due to workplace accidents.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2019-01-01 2021-12-31


Jan Wallanders och Tom Hedelius Stiftelse
Tore Browaldhs Stiftelse

Research area

Economic history

Project description

Public welfare concerns about new occupational hazards motivated workers, employers, and the government to take affirmative action. For example, both trade unions and employers' associations sought investment in workplace health and work safety not only to reduce the risk of workers to occupational hazards, but to avoid the post-accident costs to employers of lost labour. Since workplace fatalities and injuries increased the costs for poor relief in the municipalities, there was also an incentive for the government to introduce statutory workers' compensation and health and safety standards. Therefore, managing new occupational risks therefore became a key public welfare issue in Sweden, with the preventative and post-accident costs of industrial risks being distributed amongst employees, employers, and the public sector through methodologies from economic history and business history as well as further extension of data from Statistics Sweden. As structural change and economic growth are long-term phenomena by definition, historical perspectives are necessary for addressing this type of issues. Specifically, we will analyze the growth of the EGSS by focusing on: a) its growth characteristics in relation to other sectors since the 1970s b) the development of entrepreneurship and key innovations within the sector and c) the importance of governmental policies and market drivers behind startups and scaling up of the firms within this sector.

Latest update: 2019-01-25