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Life Sciences and Human Capital: Jobless Growth on Specialised and Local Labour Markets?

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Policy makers and scholars often regard the life science industry in general, and bio‐technology in particular, as an engine of future economic growth. The expectation is that growth in the industry will ultimately provide a major boost to national employment numbers. However, in this paper, I find that the Swedish life science industry (encompassing pharmaceutical, bio‐technology, and medical technology firms) accounts for only a small proportion of total employment in Sweden. Given the recent discussion on jobless growth (i.e., economic growth without employment growth), it is here argued that focusing on employment is not necessarily the best policy approach to assessing the impacts of the life science industry on the overall economy. This paper maps and analyses the scope, structure, and geography of the life science industry and its workforce in Sweden using a unique set of data covering approximately 1,200 firms and 53,000 employees. The industry's workforce has education and income levels significantly higher than national averages, and is heavily concentrated in larger metropolitan areas and major university cities. Despite employing relatively few people and being more or less dependent on the existence and success of a few major pharmaceutical firms, the industry may still have a significant impact on the national economy by engendering high levels of education, income, and export revenues, particularly in specific regions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social and Economic Geography and Centre for Research on Innovation and Industrial Dynamics (CIND), Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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