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The Nordic model

In the research on welfare states the Nordic countries are considered as one family. Studies of the Norwegian/Nordic welfare state model - its characteristics, development and challenges - is a research topic with a long tradition at the ISS.

ISS work partly with specialized studies of subareas within welfare states. An important perspective is comparisons with the two other types of welfare state in the Western world: the residual/liberal model (eg USA) and the conservative/corporatist (eg Germany). The various regimes share out the production of welfare between state, market and family in different ways, with crucial implications for the scope and distribution of welfare.

The social models that have evolved in the Nordic countries in the postwar period have several common traits that distinguish them from the other two types. They are based on small open economies and regulated commerce developed in cooperation between the commerce, labour and the state. The welfare states are characterized by generous universal social programs and a wide range of public services. A foundation of the system is a national insurance provision: the state ensures citizens against social risks over a lifetime through schemes such as sick pay, parental leave, unemployment and disability benefits and pensions. The welfare state plays a major role when it comes to education, a health service and childcare. Equal opportunities and a reduction in social and economic inequalities are central goals. The welfare state is based on high employment, providing a broad base of public tax-financed welfare.

Helga Helgesen var lærer på Kampen skole fra 1889.
Helga Bernhardine Helgesen (1863-1936) was a Norwegian teacher and cookbook author. She taught at Kampen School from 1889. She was undoubtedly a person equiped with a social conscience and insight, and faced with the poor working class of Kampen, the under- and mal-nourished children, the thought grew in her how she, a well educated person, could help to improve the conditions under which they lived. Photo: Frank Paul Silye (© All rights reserved, Flickr)

Welfare, work and family

Issues related to the development of Norwegian and Nordic family policies has been central to the department's research: What models for provision and care characterize family policy, and what consequences does this have for gender equality? What effect does confidence in family policy have on fertility? What effect does the competition for votes have on the political parties’ family policies.

Welfare state and immigration

In an era of increasing internationalization the relationship between welfare states and citizens' rights and obligations is changing. Researchers at ISS are concerned with the consequences of immigration for the welfare state, including when it comes to redistribution policies and incorporation of new citizens in society. Research also focuses on how the norwegian welfare model has set the premises for how immigration policy has evolved from the late 1960s.

History and Institutions

ISS also works with more general studies that examine how several of these areas have worked together and formed institutional complexes. Within research there is still unclear whether it exists or has existed a "Nordic model". It depends partly on what areas we are studying, partly on which time periods. But by conducting systematic comparative studies covering all the Nordic countries, while these are compared with strategic selected countries (preferably elsewhere in Europe), this area of knowledge can be brought forward.

Benefits and challenges

The Nordic model has at times received criticism - among other things for being too expensive and for creating too little flexibility in the labor market. But in recent years it has gained renewed interest because it scores high on a number of areas, such as economic growth, equality combined with relatively high fertility, high degree of trust and relatively small social differences. But a number of ongoing social changes, including an aging population, social dumping linked to increased labor migration and integration of immigrants, entail new challenges.


Research Fields and researchers at ISS

Working Politics, working regimes: Anne Lise Ellingsæter

Citizenship (citizenship): Grete Brochmann, Anniken Hagelund

The Norwegian / Nordic welfare state model: Grete Brochmann, Anne Lise Ellingsæter, Anniken Hagelund, Lars Mjøset

Insurance Policies: Anniken Hagelund

Welfare, work and family: Anne Lise Ellingsæter

Welfare state and immigration: Grete Brochmann, Anniken Hagelund, Katrine Fangen

Welfare and occupations / professions: Lise Kjølsrød


Published Mar. 28, 2019 4:21 PM - Last modified Jan. 4, 2021 11:26 AM