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Institutional fragmentation and scandinavian childcare variations
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2005 (English)In: Journal of Public Policy, ISSN 0143-814X, Vol. 25, no 3, 367-394 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Institutional fragmentation is usually assumed to influence social policy outcomes in countries with constitutional features such as federalism and divided government, but not in unitary and parliamentary states. The example of childcare politics in the Scandinavian countries suggests that institutional fragmentation and veto points also can play a significant role in unitary and parliamentary systems. The rules of childcare implementation in the Scandinavian countries to a varying degree provide municipalities and NGOs with veto opportunities and veto incentives against the realization of the central government's ambition of universal childcare coverage. In Norway but not in Sweden and Denmark municipalities and NGOs have been provided with significant veto opportunities as well as considerable incentives to act. This might help to understand why Norwegian childcare development has lagged behind its Scandinavian neighbours.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge University Press , 2005. Vol. 25, no 3, 367-394 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4754DOI: 10.1017/S0143814X05000371OAI: diva2:143983
Available from: 2005-10-19 Created: 2005-10-19Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Institutional fragmentation and social service variations: A Scandinavian comparison
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Institutional fragmentation and social service variations: A Scandinavian comparison
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Scandinavian welfare states – Denmark, Norway, and Sweden – are usually assumed to constitute a coherent and unique social service model, characterized among other things by a high level of universalism. This thesis questions the existence of such a model. It presents cross-country data, which demonstrate that only Denmark complies with the image of the Scandinavian social service model, while Norway and Sweden deviate significantly. Norwegian childcare services and Swedish elderlycare services do not stand out as particularly universalistic in comparison with other Western European countries. Altogether it seems that the Scandinavian countries in terms of social service universalism form a less coherent group than often believed.

The main aim of this thesis is to explain this lack of coherence among the Scandinavian social service systems and to understand variations between different service fields. Two main questions are raised: First, why do the Scandinavian countries display different levels of social service universalism? Second, why are there different developments in the Swedish welfare state as to the level of social service universalism between the two major social service fields of childcare and elderlycare? In order to answer these questions, an institutionalist approach is chosen, focusing on the impact of institutional fragmentation in the implementation process between the central government level on one hand and local governments and NGOs on the other. It is hypothesized that a low level of institutional fragmentation implying a concentration of policy-specific authority on the central state level is a positive precondition for the achievement of social service universalism, whereas a high level of institutional fragmentation providing municipalities and/or NGOs with veto points against universalistic social service policies instead has a detrimental impact on the prospects of social service universalism.

Empirical data drawing on public documents and national statistics support this hypothesis: In those countries and in those social service fields where a strong concentration of implementative decision making exists, a stronger level of social service universalism has been accomplished than in those where the implementative decision making is heavily fragmented between the central government on one hand and municipalities and/or NGOs on the other. This finding tentatively indicates that the intra-Scandinavian variations of social service universalism across countries and across policy fields are indeed related to different levels of institutional fragmentation in the implementation process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2005
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 1104-2508
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-612 (URN)91-7305-960-9 (ISBN)
Sociologi, 90187, Umeå
Public defence
2005-11-11, Hörsal E, Humanisthusest, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2005-10-19 Created: 2005-10-19 Last updated: 2009-09-29Bibliographically approved

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