The universal welfare state: Theory and the case of Sweden

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Abstract

In the existing literature on welfare state typologies, the concept of the universal welfare state is not defined precisely enough to allow for comparisons of universality over time and between countries. In this paper, I discuss some problems with the way the term 'the universal welfare state' has been used and I suggest possible solutions. Among other things, I propose that the term 'universality' be used to describe the provision of a specific welfare benefit independently of individual income and/or other individual characteristics. It should also be used to describe the coverage of welfare benefits rather than their size. Based on the theoretical discussion, a number of possible indicators of universality are applied to the case of Sweden in the 1990s. The conclusion is that, despite its economic crisis, universality in Sweden did not decrease.

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  • Economics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-766
JournalPolitical Studies
Volume52
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes