Nordic eldercare – weak universalism becoming weaker?

Marta Szebehely*, Gabrielle Meagher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article builds on recent research on the fortunes of universalism in European social policy by tracing the development of eldercare policy in four Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Six dimensions of universalism are used to assess whether and how eldercare has been universalized or de-universalized in each country in recent decades and the consequences of the trends thereby identified. We find that de-universalization has occurred in all four countries, but more so in Finland and Sweden than in Denmark and Norway. Available data show an increase in for-profit provision of publicly funded care services (via policies promoting service marketization), and an increase of family care (re-familialization), as well as of services paid out-of-pocket (privatization). These changes have occurred without an explicit attack on universalism or retrenchment of formal rights. Nevertheless, the changes threaten the class- and gender-equalizing potential of Nordic welfare states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-308
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of European Social Policy
Issue number3
Early online date10 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • universalism
  • privatisation
  • eldercare
  • Nordic countries
  • re-familialisation

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