Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Chapter 22: Sustaining the Nordic welfare model in the face of population ageing
The Nordic countries are already very ‘aged’ societies, and are set to witness further population ageing in the future. In global comparison, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have the 4th, 6th and 11th highest proportions of people aged 60 and over in their populations (United Nations 2010: 7). Sweden is currently one of only five countries in the world where people aged 80 and over account for more than 5 per cent of the total population (ibid.: 25). By 2050, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over is predicted to exceed one quarter in Finland, Norway and Denmark, and to pass the 30 per cent mark in Sweden (United Nations 2002). The Nordic countries are widely seen as forming a ‘family’ or a ‘regime’ of welfare states that is characterized by extensive redistribution, high legitimacy for public welfare provision, universal (citizenship-based) and earnings-related social rights, and comparatively low levels of inequality (Kautto 2010). They are also argued to share normative foundations in the form of widespread support for policies that foster equality of opportunities, a high degree of equality of outcomes, and gender equality (Kildal and Kuhnle 2005). In the area of benefits and services for older people, this translates into pension systems that cover the entire older population at a relatively generous benefit level (Kautto 2012), and long-term care systems that grant older adults with disabilities the right to public assistance.
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