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New Book: Social Policy and Economic Development in the Nordic Countries

27 Jul 2005

The “Nordic model” divides opinions. There are those who think the Nordic welfare state is the best of all possible worlds, a cornucopia that provides everyone with enough resources to fulfil various life projects. And, at the other end of the spectrum, there are those who predict a miserable end for the Nordic countries, because their welfare policies interfere with the free play of market forces.

Such extreme views are often based on myth rather than reality. The contributions to this new UNRISD publication offer insights into different policy strategies, contrast their advantages and problems, and base assessments on empirical data.

There are at least three reasons why the Nordic experience deserves attention. First, while democratization can bring pressures for expanded social policy, social policy can also contribute to democratization. Second, the clearest achievements of the Nordic welfare state have been poverty reduction and a high level of participation in society. Third, the Nordic countries have experienced high levels of prosperity and rapid economic growth, “despite” their high social spending and a high degree of state responsibility.

This suggests not only that it may be possible to unify social protection with competitive and growth-oriented economies, but also that there are ways in which properly designed social policies can contribute to growth.

A historical look at the experiences of the Nordic countries suggests that they provide quintessential examples of “democratic developmental states”, and that the welfare regimes they created quite early on their developmental path provide important lessons with respect to the interrelations between social policy and economic development. Their experiences suggest that the successful tackling of poverty demands addressing issues of production, protection and redistribution simultaneously, because social policy not only addresses fundamental goals of equity and human dignity, but also provides essential instruments for economic development and consolidation of a democratic order.

This volume challenges the contention that there is an unavoidable trade-off between equality and efficiency, and shows that social protection and economic development can go hand in hand. It also sheds instructive light on the welfare state in the Nordic countries through its careful examination of contemporary challenges to the social protection system in the Nordic countries, such as ageing, family changes, the “revolution” in information technology and globalization.

Social Policy and Economic Development in the Nordic Countries: An Introduction, O. Kangas and J. Palme
Coming Late–Catching Up: The Formation of a “Nordic Model”, O. Kangas and J. Palme
Voluntary State-Subsidized Social Insurance in the Advanced Industrialized World since the 1890s: The Nordic Experience in Comparative Perspective, E. Carroll
Empowering Social Policy: The Role of Social Care Services in Modern Welfare States, A. Anttonen Family Policy and Cross-National Patterns of Poverty, T. Ferrarini and K. Forssén
Education and Equal Life-Chances: Investing in Children, G. Esping-Andersen
Fighting Inequalities in Health and Income: One Important Road to Welfare and Development, J. Fritzell and O. Lundberg
Does the Welfare State Harm Economic Growth? Sweden as a Strategic Test Case, W. Korpi
Growth and Employment in the Nordic Welfare State in the 1990s: Crisis and Revival, J. Kiander
Financing “Big Tax” Welfare States: Sweden During Crisis and Recovery, O. Sjöberg
The Nordic Model of the Information Society: The Finnish Case, P. Himanen
Does the Most Brilliant Future of the “Nordic Model” Have to be in the Past?, O. Kangas and J. Palme

Olli Kangas is Research Professor at the Danish National Institute for Social Research in Copenhagen.

Joakim Palme is Director of the Institute for Futures Studies and Professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Sweden.

Social Policy and Economic Development in the Nordic Countries is copublished with Palgrave Macmillan; hardback, ISBN 1-4039-4163-7, 256 pages, 2005, £70.

Order from Palgrave Macmillan Publishers Limited, Brunel Road, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, United Kingdom. Phone: +44 (0) 1256 302866; Fax: +44 (0) 1256 330688; orders@palgrave.com; www.palgrave.com/order/

This volume is part of the UNRISD series, Social Policy in a Development Context, which examines ways in which social policy can be instrumental to economic development while maintaining its intrinsic goal of social protection and equity.