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Nordic civic society organisations and the future of welfare services

A model for Europe?

image of Nordic civic society organisations and the future of welfare services

When well functioning national welfare states are put under pressure, also the tasks of civic society and citizens’ mutual responsibility are being re-defined. Hence, the significance of the civic society organisations in one of the most successful and stable circumstances of welfare states - in Northern Europe - is of great interest. This publication gives a first comprehensive overview of existing research on civic society organisations in the area of welfare services in the five Nordic countries. Besides a comparative Nordic analysis, focussed national contributions are provided. Finally, leading European researchers connect the Nordic debate in to a stimulating European context. How far are the Nordic welfare traditions still of significance, since all welfare states are similarly challenged by the global market economy? Can welfare organisations provide opportunities even for the most vulnerable groups to achieve full citizenship?

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Civic society organisations and the challenges of welfare services

Some of the essential tendencies of the current changes in the Nordic welfare politics are more or less directly connected to the field of welfare services and therefore, to the civic society sector, too. Raija Julkunen (2001; see also Anttonen/Sipilä 2000) points out that the elementary shifts in the new welfare policy consist of reduced resources for public services and a silently advancing marketisation of services. This means an increasing mixture of the private, third and public sectors, as well as stronger integration of informal care of family members into the entire system of services. The new thinking is also establishing the tendency that the role of the voluntary sector, welfare organisations and the church is increasing in the politics for marginalised people, for those discriminated and for minorities. In the meantime, these task areas are increasingly run in a projectised manner instead of institutional structures, while the general, universal responsibility of the state is becoming distanced and more selective.

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