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ABSTRACT

This article explores the use of contingent forms of employment in two diverse country contexts—the UK and Sweden—and investigates the influence of changing regulatory and economic conditions over a period that covers the current economic downturn. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data for the construction sector, the article addresses three questions. How do employers balance their flexibility preferences in the context of regulatory constraints? How has the global recession influenced employer behaviour? And to what extent can the Swedish experience be explained by convergence on other country models? While the UK employment model encourages employers to externalise the risk of unpredictable market conditions through the use of contingent contracts, the more supportive welfare regime in Sweden underpins a resilient preference of employers for open-ended employment contracts. Ongoing changes in labour market regulation pose challenges to the strongly regulated Swedish model, yet we find only a shared direction of travel with the UK rather than convergence in the use of contingent employment.