The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 12: The Universal Welfare State
Bo Rothstein What is a universal welfare state? The large body of welfare state research that exists has to quite some extent been a taxonomic enterprise. Scholars in this ﬁeld have put at lot of eﬀort into constructing an adequate conceptual map that captures the extensive variation that exists in how diﬀerent industrialized Western states are doing ‘welfare’ and what diﬀerentiates the one social program from the other (Flora, 1987; Goul Andersen and Hoﬀ, 1996; Korpi and Palme, 1998; Rothstein, 1998; Swank, 1998; Kuhnle, 2000). Many scholars have come to single out the four Nordic countries as a special type of welfare state that has been labelled as ‘the universal welfare state’ (Esping-Andersen, 1990). By this is meant that there is a broad range of social services and beneﬁts that are intended to cover the entire population throughout the diﬀerent stages of life, and that the beneﬁts are delivered on the basis of uniform rules for eligibility. A typical example would be universal childcare or universal child allowances that are distributed without any form of meanstesting (that is, no individual screening is carried out). Universal health care or sickness insurances are other examples. This type of welfare policy may be distinguished from selective welfare programs that are intended to assist only those who cannot manage economically on their own hand. In a selective program, the speciﬁc needs and the economic situation of each person seeking assistance have to be scrutinized by some administrative...
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