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Nordic paths from welfare to workfare: Danish, Swedish and Finnish labour market reforms in comparison


  • Johannes Kananen



This article engages in a dynamic comparative analysis of key labour market reforms in Denmark, Sweden and Finland from the early 1990s to the 2000s. During this period traditional egalitarian and collectivist elements of Nordic social insurance were reshaped by workfare reforms. The ways in which the principle of workfare changed the content of Nordic collectivist social insurance are compared along five dimensions. According to the interpretation suggested in the light of the comparison, the traditional egalitarian and collectivist Nordic social order has not been replaced by an increased scope for autonomy. Instead, workfare reforms have contributed to an understanding of obligations in terms of obedience and to the establishment of social order through control mechanisms. The degree of changes varies, so that Swedish and Danish workfare reforms appear to have retained some of the traditional egalitarian aspects. As a contrast, Finnish reforms appear to be toughest for individual benefit recipients introducing strong control of unwanted behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Kananen, 2012. "Nordic paths from welfare to workfare: Danish, Swedish and Finnish labour market reforms in comparison," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 27(5-6), pages 558-576, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:loceco:v:27:y:2012:i:5-6:p:558-576

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