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Health Care Anal. 2000;8(4):395-411.

Solidarity in Swedish welfare--standing the test of time?

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Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, S-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden.


Swedish welfare has for decades served as a role model for universalistic welfare. When the economic recession hit Swedish economy in the beginning of the 1990s, a period of more than 50 years of continuous expansion and reforms in the welfare sector came to an end. Summing up the past decade, we can see that the economic downturn enforced rationing measures in most parts of the welfare state, although most of this took place in the beginning of the decade. Today, most of the retrenchment has stopped and in some areas we can see tendencies of restoration--but more so in financial benefits than in the caring sectors. In the article this process is discussed as a process of reallocation where general principles of solidarity become manifest. Various levels of decision making are discussed within the context of socio-political action. Current transitions in Swedish health care are described with respect to coverage rates, content, marketization and distribution. Basic principles of distribution are highlighted in order to analyse the meaning of social solidarity in a concrete allocative setting. The significance of popular opinion--it's shifts and determinants--is also considered. The article concludes with a discussion of how the (once salient) features of universalism in welfare and health care provision have been affected by the developments in the past decade in Sweden.

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