Industrial and geographical mobility of workers during industry decline: The Swedish and German shipbuilding industries 1970–2000

This article follows the industry employment histories of all individuals who at some point have been affiliated with the declining German or the dismantling Swedish shipbuilding industry during 1970–2000. We analyse the situation of the individual workers leaving shipbuilding, investigating the extent to which they were employed at all, tended to move to related sectors within or outside the region, and whether such moves were beneficial for the individuals. Combining insights from labour geography and redundancy studies with evolutionary economic geography, we find remarkably similar results for the West German and Swedish cases. Our findings indicate a notable impact of the regional industry structure on the labour market outcomes for workers leaving shipbuilding. This suggests that more attention should be devoted to the specific structures of the absorptive capacity of regional labour markets. The findings are discussed within the context of a mature industry.