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How Have the Nordic Welfare States Responded to the Unexpected Increase in Inflation?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2023

Bent Greve*
Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
Ivan Harsløf
Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
Minna van Gerven
University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Rense Nieuwenhuis
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Jakob Strigén
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Corresponding author: Bent Greve; Email:


Rising inflation in the Nordic societies has changed the living standards for many families. The situation differs not only between the four Nordic countries analysed, but even within each of the Nordic countries. The needs for intervention have varied. Several elements have been used to determine who is facing the most risks. This article shows how to combine automatic stabilisers with temporary policy interventions to deal with increased inflation in general or specific sub-elements (such as oil, natural gas). Focus is on the degree of and criteria for targeting. Possible distributional consequences of the adopted measures will be discussed. Lastly, the article considers whether the observed responses to the crisis have implications for the understanding of the Nordic welfare state model. The article investigates institutional, political and economic reasons for the variations in the interventions. The article concludes that in managing the crisis, the Nordic countries have adopted stronger targeting towards those considered to be in need, displaying some innovations in their social policy approach. Yet, one can trace a high degree of path-dependency, with the countries adhering to universalist principles, with an aim of redistributing resources.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press

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