The Political Construction of elderly care markets: Comparing Denmark, Finland and Italy

Viola Burau, Minna Zechner, Hanne Marlene Dahl, Constanzo Ranci

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In Europe over the last two decades, marketization has become an important policy option in elder care. Comparative studies predominantly adopt an institutional perspective and analyze the politics and policies of marketization. This analysis takes a step back and examines the fundamental ideas underpinning the policies of marketization, using the ‘What's the problem?’ approach by Carol Bacchi. The central question is how the market was discursively framed as the solution to the perceived problems of three different systems of elder care, and how such processes are similar or different across the three countries. The analysis includes two extreme types of elder care systems, the Nordic public systems in Denmark and Finland, and the Southern European family-based model in Italy. Empirically, the analysis offers interesting insights into processes of constructing and legitimating markets at the level of discourse; this occurs by defining specific problem representations, underlying assumptions and silences. In all three countries, marketization is presented as a solution which builds on rather than challenges dominant ideas of care. Conceptually, in addition to its institutions, it is crucial to understand the ideas behind the marketization of elder care. Ideas emerge as a key leverage for making policies and practices of marketization acceptable and which decision makers and other influential political/societal actors use in policy and public debates. The importance of ideas is further underlined by the fact that they do not necessarily relate to the institutions of elder care systems in a linear way.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1023-1041
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: "This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Burau, V., Zechner, M., Dahl, H. M., and Ranci, C. ( 2017) The Political Construction of Elder Care Markets: Comparing Denmark, Finland and Italy. Social Policy & Administration, 51: 1023– 1041. doi: 10.1111/spol.12198. , which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions."
  • NorMaCare

    Hanne Marlene Dahl (Participant)

    23 Oct 2013

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

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