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Public policy-making and risk profiles: Scandinavian centre-right governments after the turn of the millennium

  • Christoph Arndt (a1)
Abstract

Recent theoretical advances in the welfare state literature have outlined the differences between labour market- and life course-related schemes as centre-right parties have difficulties in enacting retrenchment on life course-related schemes because these concern every voter. In contrast, the textbook risk profile of centre-right parties’ electorates allows them to cutback on labour market-related schemes as these parties get negligible support from workers and low-income voters. Conducting a comparative case study of recent Danish and Swedish centre-right governments, this article analyses the stylized assumptions on the party level by comparing two similar centre-right governments, which differed in their voter coalitions’ risk profile. I first argue that centre-right governments are generally constrained by the popular entrenchment of the universal welfare state when it comes to life course-related welfare schemes. Second, I argue that the leeway on labour market-related schemes is contingent on the actual risk profile of the centre-right’s electorate, and thereby move beyond the stylized assumptions from recent literature. In this respect, the Danish centre-right did, in contrast to its Swedish counterpart, gain power with an unusual high support among working-class voters which constrained its latitude on labour market-related schemes. I find that the Danish centre-right governments after 2001 acted with bound hands thanks to its high working-class backing, and refrained from outright cutbacks on both labour market- and life course-related schemes until 2010 except for labour market outsiders. In contrast, the Swedish centre-right had a much lower working-class backing and therefore engaged in some outright cutbacks of labour market-related schemes such as unemployment benefits directly after taking office 2006. The centre-right’s actual voter coalition’s risk profile is thus an important determinant for its public policies and its leeway for policy-seeking.

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*E-mail: arndt@ps.au.dk
References
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