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Historical labour markets

The study of labour markets in a historical perspective reveals comprehensive structural change and enormous progress regarding the organisation and compensation of labour with implications for economic growth and individual well-being.

Historical labour markets deal with the functioning of the labour market (e.g., wage formation, labour supply and the demand for labour), labour market outcomes for different groups and related gaps, and labour market policy and institutions. The research is both macro- and micro-oriented, with an emphasis on large databases and quantitative methodological approaches.

We study labour force participation; productivity; wages; skill formation and careers; work-family compatibility; immigrant integration, and labour market policy and institutions in past and present contexts, often from a gender perspective.

By linking the past to the present, we may better understand labour market issues of current, and even future, concern.

Our research aims to improve knowledge and understanding of the functioning of labour markets; the evolution of labour force participation, unemployment, and leisure; gender and immigrant gaps; and the role of policy and institutions by drawing on historical experiences. By linking the past to the present, we may better understand labour market issues of current, and even future, concern.

Our research has mainly been funded by external grants from, for example: the Swedish Research Council (VR), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte), the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, and the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation (Handelsbankens forskningsstiftelse).

Examples of ongoing projects

  • Everyone worked: work patterns and household labour allocation in early modern Sweden
  • Manufacturing gender inequality
  • Spinning women revisited: Work and life before industrialisation
  • Stronger together? A micro-history of collective action and working life
  • Longer working lives and unpaid care
  • Female Empowerment and Economic Growth: The Case of Sweden 1749–2016
  • Intergenerational mobility in Sweden before and after the welfare state
  • Regulations and the labour market in nineteenth-century Sweden.

Learn more about the projects in the Lund University Research Portal



Tobias Karlsson
Senior lecturer
Associate professor