Palme, Joakim
November 2007
Social Policy Journal of New Zealand;Nov2007, Issue 32, p1
Academic Journal
The welfare state is challenged by the globalisation of the world economy and by the fact that ageing populations demand more redistribution. To promote political and social sustainability in this context, the "destructive" forces of market competition have to be met by "constructive" social policies. In Europe, the Scandinavian countries are the best performers in combining inequality reductions with high employment rates and excellent growth records. A framework for reform inspired by this starts from the notion that in order to be successful in meeting new needs with restricted resources we must improve incentives, human resources, social services and employment opportunities. The ageing of our societies means we also need to rethink our policies in other ways. The discussion has, however, been unduly focused on pension reforms and savings to ensure future living standards for the elderly. Instead, we should focus more on how social policy interacts with education, fertility and other fundamental determinants of the future tax base. In order to design social policies that are sustainable for the future, we need to put our children and youth first. The Swedish case is relevant here, with its institutions that promote gender balance and investment in life-long learning. We should, however, make sure that we base our policy recommendations not on wishful thinking but on a knowledge-based and realistic assessment of how the world works.


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