Welfare reform in the Nordic countries in the 1990s: Using Fuzzy-Set Theory to Assess Conformity to Ideal Types

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This article uses a new method for policy analysis, fuzzy-set theory, which is a framework that allows for a precise operationalization of theoretical concepts. Fuzzy-set theory is used to assess the conformity of the Nordic countries to a pre-conceptualized ideal-typical Nordic welfare model. This permits us to assess recent welfare reform and judge whether changes are of a qualitative or quantitative nature, i.e. whether reform amounts to differences in kind or degree. Comparing the development of benefits in kind and cash within three welfare areas (families, the unemployed and the elderly) during the 1990s and across the Nordic countries gives us an opportunity to assess patterns of welfare reform. The patterns of welfare reform are complex, but fuzzy-set theory permits the study of diversity. Despite numerous changes, all the countries still belong to the Nordic welfare model, although to varying degrees. Generally, Finland and Sweden have implemented more cut-backs than Denmark and Norway, and all countries have both expanded and contracted welfare programmes. Resilience at the national level thus masks a differential development between welfare areas and within welfare programmes. Tentatively, it seems that welfare policies operate within upper and lower limits which in turn are likely to vary over long time periods and among different types of welfare states; the most generous programmes are liable to cut-backs and the least generous programmes to improvements.
TidsskriftJournal of European Social Policy
Udgave nummer3
StatusUdgivet - 1999
Udgivet eksterntJa

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