Let the right ones in? Employment requirements in Swedish construction procurement
Licentiate thesis, 2018
Sweden faces problems with social exclusion and unemployment, where Swedish cities are becoming increasingly segregated, where many neighbourhoods, often built during the 1960s and 1970s, are dilapidated and in need of refurbishment. At the same time, the construction sector is facing a lack of construction workers, which hinders the large upcoming building investments planned in Sweden. In order to mitigate these issues, employment requirements – meaning procurement criteria aimed at creating employment opportunities for unemployed people – are increasingly implemented in Swedish construction procurement. Employment requirements come with an experimentation with work practices and organisational complexities, in terms of new ways of thinking, working, and collaborating. In response, this thesis aims to examine organisational implications for the construction sector, its organisations, and its individual actors, when employment requirements are increasingly implemented.
This thesis builds on a qualitative research design, where institutional theory, and in particular the practice-oriented theoretical lens of institutional work, is used. Considering the phenomenon’s novelty in practice and scarcity in research the findings in this thesis are important for both theory and practice. Firstly, a new type of actor is emerging, the “employment requirement professional”, who work with designing, implementing and spreading employment requirements and related practices. These employment requirement professionals can be characterized as institutional entrepreneurs, but currently do not enact a coherent, distinct professional role. Secondly, a wide variety of new work practices are created, which aim to support an up-and-coming institutional domain of social procurement and employment requirements. However, different approaches to implement employment requirements have not yet converged into one shared practice. Lastly, the implementation of employment requirements has spurred new ways of thinking in the construction sector, concerning what responsibilities, roles and values should be included in construction procurement, which seems to lead to ambiguity for actors working in the construction sector. As such, even though employment requirements are becoming increasingly prominent in the Swedish construction sector, there are barriers, both practical, theoretical and value-laden, that hinder the implementation, and subsequent institutionalization, of employment requirements. Having said that, when actors in the construction sector reshape exiting roles and traditional logics in the industry, for example, by using narratives, employment requirements, and social procurement, may be a full-fledged institution in the future.