Social rights in the shadow of poor relief – social assistance in the universal Swedish welfare state

Alexandru Panican, Rickard Ulmestig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The idea of a European social citizenship is being developed by the EU
to provide a minimum safety net. Questions about social citizenship
are of fundamental importance in people’s everyday lives. Social
assistance is a central dimension when studying social citizenship.
Before discussing in terms of a European social citizenship, we should
determine whether we have a social citizenship at the national level.
We therefore analyse the Swedish welfare state, one of the most
mature welfare states in the EU. We conclude that the social right to
social assistance is not part of modern citizenship, nor does it follow the formal principles of legal citizenship rights. The law presupposes a considerable amount of discretionary power at the local level when it comes to identifying the deserving poor; something that goes against the definition of a legal citizenship right. The right to social assistance is still a reproduction of the old poor-relief logic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-489
Number of pages14
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number3-4
Early online date2016 Feb 6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work

Free keywords

  • social assistance
  • social citizenship
  • EU
  • minimum safety net
  • europena social citizenship
  • national level
  • Welfare states
  • law
  • discretionary Power
  • local level
  • poor
  • deserving poor
  • right
  • old poor-relief


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