Panels and abstracts



Towards Nordic Welfare States: Challenges, Responses and Consequences - The Nordic Welfare Research Conference


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  1. Activation Policies and the Nordic Welfare States
  2. The EU and European welfare states
  3. European comparison: The Nordic welfare states and Europe
  4. Nordic pension policies adapting between sustainability and adequacy
  5. Nordic welfare states in times of disasters: Local social services
  6. Paid parental leave, practices and policies
  7. Passion for Equality’: Mechanism of Inequality and Challenges for the Nordic Welfare Model
  8. The practices and consequences of aging and care policies in Nordic countries
  9. Political emotions in the Nordic welfare states
  10. Reference budgets as a tool for welfare research
  11. Resilience of the Nordic welfare state model in the wake of automatization?
  12. Solidarity in the Nordic welfare states
  13. Sustainable welfare beyond growth
  14. Open stream

1. Activation Policies and the Nordic Welfare States
The amount of literature devoted to analysing ‘activation’ continues to grow, and while activation policy can be analysed along many different dimensions – legal, political, social, cultural and economic – the connections between the different dimensions and discourses are seldom made (Kananen, forthcoming). Typically, legal arguments consider contracts, the nature of rights and/or obligations, political arguments often consider the behaviour of parties and pressure groups, or the social politics relating to gender, class, oppression and social control, and related are the social arguments that turn to concerns about social citizenship and social cohesion; while cultural interpretations open up new frameworks for thinking about identity, change, and the borders of the national welfare states. Finally, the economic arguments tend to focus on ‘incentives’ and ‘moral hazards’, and the economic ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ of activation schemes for society as a whole. It is now timely to reflect on the latest developments and directions in ‘activation’ policy in the Nordic welfare states, ten years on from the Great Recession that arguably triggered a new third wave of ALMP reforms across the advanced societies according to Lødemel and Gubrium (2014), the first and second waves being the early-1990s and early-2000s respectively. In order to shed new light on welfare state restructuring and social change, this panel welcomes theoretical and empirical studies of active labour market policies and their effects in the Nordic welfare states, we invite contributions that focus on or span the different spheres and dimensions broadly conceived as: legal, social, cultural and economic.

Dr Johannes Kananen, Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki & Dr Christopher Deeming, School of Social Work and Social Policy, University of Strathclyde


2. The EU and European welfare states
This panel focuses on the influence of the EU on the social and labour market policies of the member states, and on member state impact on EU social policy and regulation. We are also interested in the countries of the European economic area, which are subject to EU regulation in social policy. The introduction of the Social Chapter in the Maastricht Treaty and later progress has stirred significant discussions about the scope and nature of social rights at the EU level. The EU allows citizens effective freedom to work and to receive social protection in another Member State, through the system of coordination of social security. This has spurred debate and research about ‘social tourism’, ‘race to the bottom’ and ‘social dumping’, particularly following the two Eastern enlargements of the EU. With the EMU, EU member states agreed that, facing similar challenges in a common monetary union, common aims should be sought after, but decisions in labour market and social policy should remain at national level. After several decades of EU activity in social policy, it is a controversial area because it concerns the core of member states’ public expenditure and social citizenship regimes. Following the financial crisis of 2008, which had repercussions by creating more polarization among the EU countries, the Juncker Commission launched the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is intended to support and direct all EU’s social policy initiatives. This context creates a need for research about EU social policy and its influence in member states.

We invite papers that address the diverse processes through which the EU influences national welfare policy discourses, policymaking and outcomes in one or more policy area. Both quantitative and qualitative investigations are welcome. Papers may either focus on developments in a single country or adopt a comparative perspective. Papers addressing EU social policymaking from a theoretical and conceptual perspective are also welcome.

Associate Professor Rune Halvorsen, PhD, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University
Professor of Sociology Kenneth Nelson, PhD, Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University
Professor (MSO) Caroline de la Porte, PhD, Copenhagen Business School


3. European comparison: The Nordic welfare states and Europe
For a long time, it has been common to consider the welfare systems of the Nordic countries modern and advanced. In the early 20th century and especially in the decades after the Second World War, Nordic systems functioned as role models for policy initiatives and reforms in other European countries. In recent years, a new type of convergence can be observed. Some would argue that the roles have been reversed: Nordic welfare systems rather tend to follow the example of other European countries and seem to lose their pioneering role. This panel discusses the Nordic welfare systems compared to others: what is the contribution of Nordic welfare systems today in a European context, and is there potential for mutual learning? All papers are welcome which address the condition of the Nordic welfare systems from a cross-national perspective. Different areas of social policy can be addressed like health, pension and housing policy, labour market policy and many more. Moreover, also comparisons with non-European countries are welcome.

Marie-Luise Assmann, CvO-University of Oldenburg
Ida Tolgensbakk, NOVA, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University
Janikke Solstad Vedeler, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University


4. Nordic pension policies adapting between sustainability and adequacy
While there is wide literature on similarities between the Nordic welfare states, there is less work on the diversity and this appears to be particularly true for the pension models. That all Nordic countries have reformed their pension schemes during the past decades may have reinforced the diversity. On the other hand, the Nordics have all shown reform-capacity, in contrast to many other countries were pension reforms have proved more difficult to push through.
Financing concerns, ageing, the length of working careers, pension adequacy and well-being of the elderly population have been among key challenges that have had to be addressed. But generational fairness, prevailing gender inequalities and concern over socioeconomic equality have also loomed behind adaptation measures.

The reforms warrant the analysis of a range of questions: To what extent do we find similarities in adjustment patterns? How major are changes in the short vs. the long term? How has public and private responsibility, and the role of pension funds evolved? In a comparative perspective, how do we characterize the Nordic pension reforms, their driving forces and their outcomes? How have the costs of reform spread across generations, different socioeconomic groups and gender? How has the power and interest equilibria changed?

The papers in this panel can address similarities, differences and changes in Nordic pension policies. We welcome papers on pension reforms and their outcomes. We invite papers from different disciplines, such as economics, history, social sciences and political science. Papers could approach the themes of the panel with country case studies, comparative analyses of Nordic pension schemes/reforms/outcomes or involve broader comparisons including also other countries outside the Nordic hemisphere.

Professor Joakim Palme, Department of Government, Uppsala University
Director Mikko Kautto, Centre for Pensions


5. Nordic welfare states in times of disasters: Local social services
The literature reveals the importance of local social services both in the aftermath of disasters and in relation to preparedness and enhancing the resilience of communities and individuals. Local social services refers to the services that the municipalities are responsible for, usually social assistance and various services, and often including care services.

Despite the importance of such services before, during and after disasters there has been limited research in the Nordic countries on how social services relate to the system of disaster preparedness/civil defence systems and to what extent special Disaster Social Services Response Plans are been implemented within social services.

Thus the session welcomes papers that address how local social services are organized and implemented during times of disasters, how social services enhance resilience, planning and preparedness as well as long-term recovery both among individuals and the community.

Professor Carin Björngren-Cuadra, Faculty of Social Work, University of Malmö
Professor Guðný Björk Eydal, Faculty of Social Work, University of Iceland


6. Paid parental leave, practices and policies
The Nordic countries were among the pioneers in developing paid maternity leave and, in the 1970s and 1980s they were among the first nations to develop schemes of paid parental leaves that provided both parents with the opportunity to choose how they would divide the leave period between them. At different points in time, additional paternity leave was introduced, usually a two week period after birth of the child which the father could use to stay home with the mother and the child. All countries enacted such schemes in the late 1970s or early 1980s except Iceland that implemented rights to paternity leave as late as 1998. Despite the joint entitlements mothers continued to use the lion’s share of the joint leave and very little changed regarding the fathers’ take up of parental leave. Drawing lessons from this development, the idea to define part of the paid parental leave as father’s quota was put forward in the early 1990s in order to ensure that men took more leave. Norway was the first country to enact such father’s quota into law in 1993, followed by Sweden in 1995, Denmark in 1998 (abolished in 2002) and Iceland in 2000 and Finland in 2003. The session welcomes papers on recalibration of parental leave institutions; on the policies and politics; patterns of take-up; consequences of take-up for children, fathers, mothers, gender equality and labour market.

Professor Ann- Zofie Duvander, Sociologiska institutionen, Demografiska avdelningen, Stockholms Universitet
Professor emerita Berit Brandth, Institutte for socioligi og statsvitenskap, NTNU
Professor Guðný Björk Eydal, Faculty of Social Work University of Iceland
Associate Professor Ingólfur V. Gíslason, Department of Sociology, University of Iceland
Dr Johanna Lammi-Taskula, Head of Unit, Department of Children, Young People and Families, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland


7. ’Passion for Equality’: Mechanism of Inequality and Challenges for the Nordic Welfare Model
In his seminal book ’Norden – Passion for Equality’ Stephen Graubard prized the Nordic countries for their ethos of equality. Be it as it is with the ‘passion for equality’, the great achievement of the Nordic countries has been that the levels of various forms of social ills have been low and equality in all aspects has characterized the Nordic hemisphere. The question is if the ‘Nordic model’ still is as distinct as it was described to have been, and if in the global context it is possible to preserve the basic characteristics of ‘The model’. Our panel invites papers on various dimensions of inequality.

In comparative research, much attention has been paid to the negative effects of inequalities. Not only scientists such as Wilkinson & Pickett, Marmot, Piketty and Kawachi but also the EU, several UN agencies (ILO, WHO, UNDP and UNRISD), the OECD and even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund drew attention to the detrimental effects of inequality growth. The lion’s share of the debate has concerned growing income differences.

However, it should also be remembered that inequalities in income are only one form of inequalities we found in our societies. Göran Therborn (2014) writes succinctly: "Inequality is not just about the thickness of a wallet. It is a social and cultural phenomenon that limits (the most of us) the opportunities to act as a human being. It weakens health, self-esteem, self-awareness and possibilities to actively participate in the world they live in.”

Our panel offers various academic disciplines and groups of researchers interested in social inequalities in the Nordic countries the opportunity to present and discuss their results. We welcome presentations of inequalities in the Therbornian spirit: income, property, health, education, social mobility / immobility, gender inequalities, political and cultural inequalities etc. The goal is thus to discuss all the factors and mechanisms that condition and limit possibilities to full social inclusion and participation at different stages of their lives.

Professor Mikko Niemelä, Professor Olli Kangas & Project researcher Esa Karonen, Sociology, Department of Social Research, University of Turku


8. The practices and consequences of aging and care policies in Nordic countries
The transition of the Nordic welfare states has profoundly affected the delivery of publicly funded health and care services to older adults. Market practices, such as competition and choice between public and private providers, have been introduced in the service provision and the increasing emphasis on ageing in place has resulted in heavy reductions of beds in hospitals and residential care. Thus, growing numbers of increasingly old and frail individuals are living at home supported or not by their families, communities and home care services. These changes polarize care for older adults: less affluent recourse to informal care more often than affluent ones. Those with more cultural and economic capital are better able to make informed choices of care providers. It is likely that digitalization, whereby services are partly or entirely transferred to internet or they are provided by using digital technologies, adds to the polarization. The panel addresses care of older adults and the consequences of transformations of care policies in Nordic countries.

Associate professor Marie Konge Nielsen, Syddansk Universitet
Dr Minna Zechner, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences


9. Political emotions in the Nordic welfare states
Globalization has aggravated conflicts between political winners and losers (Kriesi et al. 2008) and insiders and outsiders, i.e. wage earners with protected jobs and those who are unemployed or hold temporary jobs with few employment rights (Lindvall and Rueda 2014). In such situation, emotions play increasingly stronger role in politics (Manning and Holmes 2014; Papacharissi 2014). The winners in globalization feel politically capable and optimistic, whereas the losers may often feel powerless and pessimistic, leading to political apathy. At the same time, political emotion of solidarity seems to be weakening or fragmenting into resentful, divergent, mutually hostile political bubbles. The Nordic ‘happy democracies’, traditionally characterized by consensual decision-making procedures, corporatism, relatively high turnout, wide representation of various social groups, active membership in social organizations, national solidarity and institutional and social trust (Bengtsson & al. 2014), are not immune to these changes. Economic and social inequalities and political polarization might undermine the Nordic model (Wilkinson and Pickett 2010) and support for redistribution (Hall 2017), particularly if policy-making does not respond to the new social groups and interests.

This panel explores the Nordic model from the perspective of democratic participation and its emotional basis. We encourage papers examining a wide range of political emotions, such as trust, solidarity, empathy, anger and resentment, at the level of individual citizens as well as political system. Papers discussing the means to enhance the democratic resilience of the Nordic model are particularly warranted.

Academy Research Fellow Hanna Wass, Political Science & Professor Anu Kantola, Communication,
The Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki


10. Reference budgets as a tool for welfare research
Measuring living standards of the people has always been at the center of social policy research. For this purpose, several methods have been used. Reference budgets, which are one of the oldest methods for analyzing living standards, are increasingly been used in the contemporary social policy research. Reference budgets are baskets of goods and services that when priced can be used to represent any living standard. Typically reference budgets are constructed to represent minimum or decent minimum living standard that enable people to participate in the society. This enables to use reference budgets for several purposes such as to contextualize the at-risk-of-poverty indicator and in assessing the adequacy of benefits or wages. In the Nordic countries, reference budgets have a strong foothold in many strands of social policy research.

This session welcomes empirical, theoretical and methodological papers that utilize reference budgets in social policy research. These include for example papers that focus on poverty research, assessing impacts of policy reform, evaluating the adequacy of minimum income protection or analyzing the cost of children and household of varying size and composition. The papers can either be national or cross-national.

Doctoral candidate Lauri Mäkinen, University of Turku
Research professor Pasi Moisio, Head of Unit, Social Policy Research, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Researcher Elling Borgeraas, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO), Oslo Metropolitan University



11. Resilience of the Nordic welfare state model in the wake of automatization?
The inclusive Nordic welfare model has facilitated economic growth, stable business environments and excellent living conditions. The high-quality public institutions are supported through a large tax base and a high participation rate. In terms of labour market institutions, the Nordic countries are classified among the so called coordinated market economy countries as opposed to liberal market economy countries.

As small and open economies the Nordic countries are forced to adopt to technological changes in the global markets (Katzenstein 1985). In the wake of automation and digitalization, apart from general education level, also the types of skills may also determine the range of exit options. Workers in the Nordic coordinated market regimes may be less mobile across different occupations relative to workers in liberal market regimes. For this reasons automation would arguably have a substantial impact on workers’ employment prospects and economic security in the Nordic countries where workers have vocational and skills-based training with least cross-occupational mobility.

This panel will collect papers which focus on the effects of technological change on social policies, including educational, employment policies in the Nordic. Also papers discussing new innovations such as basic income, participation income and personal social security accounts will be included. In addition, the panel will attract discussion on future directions of social security delivery through digitalization, e.g. social security accounts based on life-course perspective.

Professor Heikki Hiilamo, Social Policy, The Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki


12. Solidarity in the Nordic welfare states
The theme of this panel is the role of solidarity in the Nordic welfare states. Solidarity has commonly included mutual obligations and entitlements within some kind of community such as religious or political groups, classes, local places and nations. While national solidarity is essential in Europe, we increasingly observe calls for solidarity that are European and cosmopolitan. Such appeals for solidarity are based on a growing awareness of how complex policy challenges such as climate change, migration, poverty and social cohesion can only be solved by crossing national boundaries. Moreover, there is an increasing call for solidarity based on human rights derived from international law and humanitarian values.

Nevertheless, existing welfare states rely on bounded solidarity. The commitments to common public solutions, which are crucial to the Nordic welfare states, seem to make self-interest insufficient or unreliable on its own to maintain a welfare state. If modern welfare states are motivated by attitudes of mutual concern and mutual obligations towards fellow co-citizens, how can this be combined with wicked and global challenges?

In order to better understand the nature of these challenges, and the responses and consequences for the Nordic welfare states, we need to understand the meaning of solidarity – and how it can be enhanced or diminished. What are the sources of solidarity? What are the boundaries of solidarity? What are the threats to solidarity?

The types of paper we expect to this panel are analysing different forms of solidarity and the combinations or conflicts between them. The papers can be both empirical and theoretical, and come from various academic disciplines. In this panel, we apply a broad approach to solidarity. We do not only define solidarity in redistributive terms, but also civic and democratic solidarity are crucial in the Nordic welfare states.

Marianne Takle, NOVA, Oslo Metropolitan University
Are Vegard Haug, NOVA, Oslo Metropolitan University


13. Sustainable welfare beyond growth
Much current welfare and social policy literature gravitates around the crisis and corresponding recalibrations of the welfare arrangements that were developed in the post-war era. Ecological concerns such as climate change keep being largely ignored. Sustainability and degrowth researchers in particular have demonstrated that, on a finite planet, Western production and consumption patterns as well at its welfare standards cannot be generalized globally. Shrinking of material throughput of the economy is required in order to safeguard wellbeing in the future. An institutional compromise for a sustainable welfare society would therefore need to go beyond existing institutions and welfare regimes including the Nordic one. The academic debate on these topics is growing but further interdisciplinary research is needed on a theoretical concept of “sustainable welfare”, in which environmental and intergenerational concerns are systematically accounted for. Elaborated ideas for eco-social policies at transnational, national and local levels are also required.

In asking what it requires to make welfare societies ecologically sustainable, the session regards the current financial, economic and political crisis and the corresponding adjustments in existing Nordic welfare state institutions as an impetus to also consider environmental crisis and reach beyond the growth imperative. The focus is on the sustainability of Nordic welfare states. Are there, for example, indications that these are in a better position to provide environmental sustainability than other welfare state types? What is the current relationship between wellbeing, economic growth and environmental impacts in Nordic countries? And how to ensure wellbeing while reducing material and energy use? We particularly invite papers that:

• develop theoretical perspectives on welfare and wellbeing within environmental limits;
• provide empirical studies that combine sustainability and welfare perspectives;
• identify and discuss (emerging) eco-social policies for sustainable welfare.

Postdoctoral researcher Tuuli Hirvilammi , Kokkola University Consortium, University of Jyväskylä
Professor of Social Policy Max Koch, Faculty of Social Sciences, Lund University

14. Open stream
In case you are not sure which panel you should choose, please choose this final alternative in the list. Choosing this alternative means that the organizing committee may place your presentation in the panel or it may organise open panel.


Abstract submission guidelines

All abstracts must be submitted in English and they should include:
Title and number of the panel
Title of the paper
Author(s): First and last names, institutions, and e-mail addresses of the authors
Abstract text: Abstract text should not exceed 300 words. The abstracts should include:

  1. Main issue analyzed in the paper
  2. Type of methodology and sources of data/information used for the analysis (in case the paper is mainly theoretical, please specify so)
  3. Main (expected) findings the analysis

Abstract submissions will be reviewed by the panel convenors. Those accepted for presentation are published on the conference website. Since there will be no editing of the abstracts, authors are required to avoid typing errors, misordering of names, incorrect spelling etc.

The presenting author assumes full responsibility for the contents of the abstract and must ensure that all other authors have approved the abstract before submission. The presenting author will be required to register for the conference.

Please send your abstract by the deadline 31st October 2018 to nordicwelfare[at] The conference organisers will inform you about the acceptance of your proposal by 5th November 2018.