The Nordic model and social sustainability
10 Mar 2022
The state of the Nordic welfare model has gone through many changes, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and over the long-term. In times of crisis, the model has challenged, and the pandemic in particular has served as a kind of stress test for how the systems handle external threats. This was the theme for Nordic Welfare Forum 2021: The Nordic model and social sustainability.
Over two days, during Nordic Welfare Forum 2021: The Nordic model and social sustainability, we learned much about the current state of the Nordic welfare model, its many virtuous, and the changes it has gone through, both during the pandemic and over the long-term.
The state of the Nordic welfare model
First keynote speaker, professor Bent Greve, from the Department of Social Sciences and Economics at Roskilde University in Denmark, stated that there are signs that the view of the Nordic welfare states is changing. According to Greve, there exists a classic universal understanding of the Nordic welfare state phenomenon. We are seen as ”happy nations” and trust, social cohesion, high-gdp, job, economic security and health are important elements for that. We have also seen changes in recent years, such as increased inequality, increased levels of compensation and changes in labour market policy.
”Inequality, is a big challenge for the Nordic countries in the years to come,” says Bent Greve. “There are signs that suggest the Nordic welfare state is perceived as both less universal and less generous than in the past.”
Bengt Greves conclusion was that the Nordic welfare states are still functioning well, although there are signs of changes – it’s less generous and less inclusive. The Nordic welfare states are able to cope with crisis, financial as well as COVID19. ” So, still distinct – but challenges and tendency towards Western-Northern type of welfare states”.
Did we pass the stress test?
Second keynote speaker, professor Minna van Gerven, from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki in Finland, addressed the question of how the Nordic welfare states have passed the stress test to which they have been subjected by the external threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
”With this pandemic we have seen things that have been hidden or things that got exposed, dealing with this new kind of moment,” says Minna van Gerven. ”The pandemic is seen as a syndemic shock, it has put our welfare structures under a scrutiny”.
In her reasoning, van Gerven answered yes to the question Has the pandemic changed Nordic welfare states? ”We saw attempts to alleviate inequalities, we do see quite considerable concern relating to the long term consequences of this syndemic. They are targeted. They are focusing on the people that are marginalized already.” van Gerven sent with us that we should pay considerable attention to the role of automatic stabilisers.
”I refer to social security benefit systems, that we were able to buffer us from the first intial shocks of the pandemic. It really shows us the importance of these social structures and benefits. They can protect us from risks and are able to adjust to new kind of situations.”
Social policy responses
Third keynote speaker, professor Johan Fritzell from the Aging Research Center at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden presented data from the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) which is the European Commission’s network of experts. ESPN has analyzed the main characteristics during the changes that the social policy programs have gone through in EU contries.
”From the European perspective you can generally say that there has never been so many social policy changes during so short period evolving in Europe. This applies both in the Nordic countries and in the rest of Europe,” says Fritzell and continue:
”We strongly recommend to most countries that they should seize the opportunity created by these temporary measures to increase social protection systems in the European settings. And deepening the policies to structural reforms”.
Johan Fritzell summed up his speach with the conclusion that the Nordic welfare state managed well on the cash side, during pandemic. But – the pandemic also highlighted deficiencies in care and services –and social inequalities.
Nordic Welfare Forum presented a lot of knowledge with headlines like Labor market integration of refugees – a welfare challenge in the Nordic region, Corona pandemic and its consequences for welfare development and Responses to today’s challenges. We also presented statistic framework for understanding Nordic welfare and health.
or if you want to choose a part:
- Part 1: Nordic welfare state post corona
- Part 2: Labor market integration of refugees – a welfare challenge in the Nordic region
- Part 3: Corona pandemic and its consequences for welfare development
- Part 4: Responses to today’s challenges
- Part 5: Stronger together: Why developing Nordic Welfare Indicators benefits all
- Part 6: Nomesco/Nososco – statistic framework & reflections of the conference theme
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