Volume 44, No. 3 | The welfare state

Jørgen Goul Andersen | Economic sustainability – political insecurity. The Danish welfare state 1990-2012

In terms of public consumption, the Danish welfare state experienced its second “golden age” 1992-2010. Programs were reformed, but mostly in accordance with a tradition of universalism and equality. A new pension system is mainly based on defined contribution principles, but maintains exceptionally high minima. Some welfare services were privatized, but without questioning public financing. There has been an “activation” of the tax/welfare system aimed at increasing labor supply. Until 2008, stricter conditionality matched lower unemployment, but radical retrenchment in unemployment benefits by 2010 jeopardizes “flexicurity”. Compared to EU-15, Denmark has below-average taxes on labor, excepting marginal taxes for high incomes. The lower classes are strongly affected by pension reforms. The welfare state is among Europe’s most economically sustainable, but with an uncertain political future.

Kees van Kersbergen og Anton Hemerijck | Two decades of change: supply-side policies and the emergence of the social investment state

Since the late 1970s, the developed welfare states of the European Union have been recasting the policy mix on which their systems of social protection were built. They have adopted a new policy orthodoxy labeled the “social investment strategy”. With a combination of supply side policies that increase employability and policy that offers protection, the strategy aims at finding positive-sum solutions to the trade-off between equality and efficiency. In this paper we trace its origins and major developments. The extent of welfare reform adds up to a system change that goes far beyond such concepts as “retrenchment”. The shift is characterized by common trends and features, but there are also significant national distinctions.

Mads Leth Felsager Jakobsen og Thomas Pallesen | When do we get more money? And how do we make them last? Danish regions’ external and internal strategies for dealing with economic framework conditions

The establishment of five new regions was a major outcome of the large Danish local government reform in 2007. The provision of hospital care became the regions’ main task, but managing the hospital sector involves a dilemma. The regions have an incentive to induce hospital activity by funding the hospital according to performance. But the regions also face a fixed overall budgetary limit and activity-related funding of the hospitals may jeopardize the regions’ ability to stay within the budgetary limit. The article investigates two possible regional strategies to cope with the dilemma. One possible regional strategy is to soften the dilemma by advocating for increased central government funding. Another strategy is to target the performance-related funding of the hospital to mobile patients. 

Christian Albrekt Larsen | An essay about economic inequality, the public belief system and support for redistributive welfare policies

The article discusses how economic inequality and poverty affect public belief systems. The articles analyzes the US and UK, which distinguish themselves by increased inequality since the mid-1970s, and Sweden and Denmark, which distinguish themselves by decreased inequality. The article points at three central beliefs: 1) the societal development has been a “success” or a “failure”; 2) one can or cannot trust fellow citizens; and 3) “the poor” are ordinary citizens who experience a hard time or deviants who abuse the welfare system. By means of available survey material, the article demonstrates that Americans and Brits have acquired beliefs that hinder a collective solution to the problem of inequality and poverty. The opposite is the case in Sweden and Denmark.

Christoph Arndt | The electoral consequences of welfare reforms for the Social Democrats

The article demonstrates that the large electoral defeat for Danish Social Democracy in the 2001 elections was not solely the consequence of the immigration issue, but also of the welfare state reforms implemented by the Nyrup government. Social Democratic core voters opposed the reforms since they broke with the decommodification paradigm and turned away from social democracy. Against the arguments from the literature, the left-wing competitor the Socialist People’s Party’s could not benefit from the reforms given its function as support party. Rather, the reforms caused a realignment of Social Democratic core voters, and the Liberals and the Danish People’s Party expanded their voter base in 2001 as a consequence of the Nyrup government’s welfare reforms.

Gitte Sommer Harrits og Marie Østergaard Møller | Target groups of the welfare state: social categories and political legitimacy in the fight against negative social heritage

Previous research on political target groups demonstrates a link between social constructions, policy design and political legitimacy. Such theories form the background of an explorative analysis of political target groups in a relatively new policy area, namely policies directed against social reproduction and “negative social heritage”. The results show first that target groups in preventive health, day-care and education policies are rather diffuse and delimited mainly by descriptions of social groups. Second, results indicate that political legitimacy in preventive policies are closely connected to the delimitation of and difference between “all children” and “some children”, i.e. children with problems. Finally, the analysis shows that policy tools consist of “corrections of behaviour”, which is connected to both descriptions of problems and the general goal of equal opportunities.

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