Expansion and retrenchment of the welfare state: a long-term approach to the Swedish case, 1950-2006

In this paper we make a long-term analysis of the evolution of the Swedish welfare state. We will look for an explanation of that evolution using a systemic approach. That is to say, our approach will consider the interrelations between the growth dynamics, the socio-political framework and the welfare state − understood as a set of institutions embracing the labour market and its regulation, the tax system and the so-called social wage − in order to find the main variables that explain its evolution. We will apply this approach to a study case of the Swedish welfare state given it is considered a paradigmatic case in welfare state studies. We will begin by tracing the origins of the ‘Swedish model’ and its main components, focusing in their evolution till the radicalisation of labour in the 1970s. Next we will look at the changes in the policies that were implemented as a reaction to that radicalisation and how they contributed to the burst of the economic crisis in the beginning of the 1990s. As this crisis gave rise to a new accumulation pattern, its major features will be delineated in the next part. And finally, the outcomes for the working class’ living standards of this process will be assessed through a set of 24 indicators classified along three main goals (related to the origins of the ‘Swedish model’ of welfare state): full employment (and other labour-market conditions linked to it), wage growth (understood in its broadest sense of direct wage, deferred wage and indirect wage) and greater equality (both among wages, personal income and functional income).




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