International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy
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International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

Sarah Harper, Kate Hamblin, Jaco Hoffman, Kenneth Howse and George Leeson

The International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy explores the challenges arising from the ageing of populations across the globe for government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. It examines various national state approaches to welfare provisions for older people, and highlights alternatives based around the voluntary and third-party sector, families and private initiatives. The Handbook is highly relevant for academics interested in this critical issue, and offers important messages for policy makers and practitioners.
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Chapter 22: Sustaining the Nordic welfare model in the face of population ageing

Virpi Timonen and Mikko Kautto


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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