Description: Today young people´s choice of education and work is a process more complex and fuller of risks than ever, as it is taking place in a context characterised by rapid change, uncertainty and far-reaching demands on self-regulation and responsiveness. At the same time the strategies and choices are highly influenced and limited by structural factors, and one may talk of "structured individualisation" (Furlong & Cartmel 1997). In this situation, career guidance and information tend to become increasingly important (1) as means of reducing uncertainty and risks of negative choices from the individual´s perspective. (2) Such services are also assumed to serve economic and social functions by improving the match between demand and supply at the labour market and by facilitating social inclusion. Policies concerning career guidance and information in 37 countries has recently been investigated by the OECD, EU and the World Bank (Watts & Sultana 2004, Watts 2005), resulting in the largest database on career guidance policies that has ever been (Watts 2005, 66-67). In Sweden, one of the major aims of the ongoing research project The Individual, Paths and Choices. Career choices and counselling in social, multi-cultural and gender perspectives is to analyse how career guidance is organised and designed at local level in today´s highly decentralised, deregulated and "lean" Swedish system (c.f. Lundahl 2005). A historical background is given in a study of Swedish guidance policies in the post-war years, emanating from the project (Nilsson 2005).Aim of the paperThe paper aims at analysing present national and local Swedish policies in the field of career guidance, in particular addressing young people at lower and upper-secondary school levels, and position such policies in the wider European context. Central questions are: to what extent and in which terms is guidance explicitly formulated as a policy matter at national and local level? Which goals are stressed, which resources are allocated, and which processes are favoured? How may differences between municipalities be described and explained? Is it still possible to distinguish a Swedish policy on guidance in schools, or is in practice the formulation and implementation of such policies a question for municipalities o even individual counsellors?
Methodology: The paper is based on qualitative and quantitative analysis of data from a recent national survey among the 290 Swedish municipalities (Skolverket 2005), policy documents, and data from the international studies of guidance policies in 37 countries.
Conclusions: It is assumed that deregulation, decentralisation of responsibilities to the local level and the introduction of a market situation in the field of study and vocational guidance will result in considerable variations between municipalities in regards to provison and quality of such services. It may be questioned if such a fragmented situation promotes the learning, social equity and labor market goals of career guidance and information put forward in the international study.