Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:40 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Scandinavian welfare states have been characterised by the combination of universal access to tax-financed social services and income-based social insurances, with strong redistributive effects. This welfare model has been interpreted as a sign of the political strength of egalitarian values as well as of political stability where electoral shifts do not translate into wholesale policy change. Noted by its long history of active family and gender equality policies, enabling (virtually) all
women and men to combine gainful employment and family responsibilities, the Scandinavian countries has gained worldwide reputation for its gender equal ideals (a dual-earner/dual-carer’ family model). However, in the wake of mass unemployment with the economic crisis of the early 1990s, and ensuing restructurings of welfare service provision and funding (stressing ideals of ‘freedom of choice’ for families), there has been an increase in poverty gaps and inequalities. This has resulted in a de facto (if not politically embraced) departure from former egalitarian policy ambitions.
It is therefore important to ask why and in what political contexts such changes emerge and how welfare models are transformed. The purpose of this paper is to critically engage in debates on how inequalities are (re)produced in Scandinavian welfare states by further analysing transformations of the normative foundation of welfare policies with special emphasis on family and gender equality policies in Sweden. This illustrates the impact of economic crisis also on purportedly egalitarian welfare models.
The main argument is that the economic crisis of the 1990s, in conjunction with emerging discourses on freedom of choice, is challenging the notion of inclusive family policies for productive purposes - family policy Keynesianism. Thus, increasing inequalities and the dismantling of egalitarian values must be understood as a result of an amalgamation of profound ideological shifts in how to redistribute welfare services and economic crises.