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Johannes Kananen Centre for Nordic Studies University of Helsinki

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  1. Rationales and Ideas behind ‘Workfare’ Reforms in Denmark, Sweden and Finland since the early 1990s Johannes Kananen Centre for Nordic Studies University of Helsinki

  2. Background • Theoretical perspective on workfare reforms: in the Nordic countries they indicate a renegotiation of the post-war collectivistic social order, but the question remains open whether policies are more enabling or constraining • Methodological approach: top-down policy paradigm analysis of legislative documents (legislative acts and government bills) concerning key legislation, analysed in a comparative and dynamic manner • Main argument: this approach is needed in order to take a critical distance from central administrative categories and also before a more ’grass root’ level analysis may be carried out University of Helsinki, Johannes Kananen

  3. Key dimensions • Shared impulse towards reform, but fundamental differences in the three countries: • Dynamics and contexts vary: most importantly, the level of unemployment has been different during reforms which affects management of insider/outsider divisions • Level of discretion left for front-line authorities in the legislation varies: Denmark and Sweden high, Finland low • Formulation of rights and obligations varies between the three countries • View on benefit recipients and the way they are expected to behave varies between countries • These dimensions are important when assessing underlying ideas, aims and rationales University of Helsinki, Johannes Kananen

  4. Key results • Finnish workfare reforms best characterised as aiming to control unwanted behaviour among benefit recipients – also an underlying aim to establish an insider/outsider division within the labour force in order to maximise the supply of labour • Danish workfare reforms can be characterised to create a new deal for the unemployed – clearly established rights and obligations – aim to treat uninsured and insured workers similarly and thus to counteract insider/outsider divisions • Swedish workfare reforms can be understood as increasing the obligations of income support recipients – aim to treat uninsured and insured workers similarly and thus to counteract insider/outsider divisions University of Helsinki, Johannes Kananen

  5. Conclusions • More legislative activity does not necessarily mean wider social rights, question remains: are the policies more enabling than constraining? • Sweden and Denmark appear more similar regarding the identified key dimensions –> aim to counteract insider/outsider dimensions, whereas Finland stands out as a case of its own • Workfare reforms represent political effort to translate the international reform impulse into national traditions and policies, here Denmark and Sweden have negotiated a compromise between traditional Nordic policies whereas Finland has clearly broken up with the policy tradition University of Helsinki, Johannes Kananen