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Institutional fragmentation, institutional engineering and the development of elderlycare and childcare in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2006 (English)In: Scandinavian Political Studies, ISSN 0080-6757, Vol. 29, no 4, 285-307 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article seeks to identify institutional causes behind policy-specific retrenchments in the Swedish welfare state. During the austerity period of the 1980s and 1990s, the Swedish welfare state simultaneously experienced retrenchments in some fields and stability or expansion in others. Elderlycare is an example of tremendous retrenchment and childcare one of continuous expansion. A comparison of both fields suggests that the divergent trends might be related to different policy-specific levels of institutional fragmentation in the implementation process. In elderlycare, implementation was strongly fragmented between the central and local government level, with the central government providing only weak overarching regulation and the local governments enjoying considerable local implementation discretion. As a consequence, in this field, local governments had enough discretion to impose local retrenchment measures in order to adapt to the conditions of austerity. In childcare, a similar development did not take place because in this field the municipal implementation autonomy was severely circumscribed by strong central state regulations. It is probable that the different institutional preconditions in both fields have been shaped intentionally by means of governmental institutional engineering. The decentralized decision-making structure in elderlycare might have allowed the central government to induce blame-avoidant retrenchments on the local government level.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley InterScience , 2006. Vol. 29, no 4, 285-307 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-4756DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9477.2006.00153.xOAI: diva2:143985
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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