During the time I have spent in Germany, I’ve lived with a Swedish girl. One day we were talking about differences between Italy and Sweden, when she told me something that for me was not common and totally new. She said that it is the norm in her country to study “equality of gender” even in the elementary school. She explained me that the idea of equality- of gender and per se- is extremely important and felt in all Scandinavian country. This is why in this post I will briefly outline the peculiarities of these countries, especially in terms of what is known to be the “ Scandinavian model”.
The Nordic welfare states have always been a model for all countries around the world. This is because these States have achieved a successful way of promoting a women-friendly, gender-inclusive model of citizenship. One of the reasons why the Nordic countries- Sweden in particular- hold this place is because politics and policy are, more than elsewhere in Europe, framed by values aimed at including women in all spheres of state machinery. Precisely, the Nordic or social democratic model differs from any other welfare state model not only because it is a label applied by welfare regime analysts but also because it is recognized and carried out with pride by Scandinavian governments and citizens. Has Robert Cox stated, “the core values of the Gender, Citizenship, and Social Justice in the Nordic Welfare States Scandinavian model are not only important to the scholars who observe the model, but they are widely shared by the citizens of Scandinavian countries and constitute an important component of national identity in those countries” . He highlights that this belief is an idea which strongly represents Scandinavian path-dependency. As a consequence of that, any policy development is interpreted to fit with the model.
The values that explicitly underpin the Nordic model’s commitment are equality, solidarity, and universalism. They are values that are mutually supportive and dependent. It has to be said that the principle of inclusionary and equal citizenship is not fully achieved and seriously undermined by the preoccupation of growing immigration.
However, what emerges is a real commitment toward equality of opportunity, with a great attention on what is then the concreate outcome. The result is the promotion of the well- being at all levels and the possibility for all citizens to fully pursue their own projects.
It does not surprise that the Nordics are generally more successful than other welfare states in integrating the issue of poverty into wider concerns, while most of other countries prefer to exclude this group of people. To give some data, all Scandinavian countries- together with Belgium- had the lowest child poverty rates in the OECD in around 2000. In comparison with UK and the United States, the rates of the Nordic countries were between 2.1 and 3.3 percent. The situation was then compared with an OECD average of 10.3 percent and with 13.6 percent and 18.4 percent in the UK and the United States, respectively (OECD 2007).
Another peculiar aspect of these states is the idea that welfare state is an integral part of everyday life. This is why, as some scholars write (Kangas and Palme),” the state was not perceived as such a hostile and alien force to the individual”. As a consequence, a widespread acceptance of taxation is seen as necessary to generate means to help put the values of equality, solidarity, and universalism in practice. To say it simpler, the Nordic states want to invest in their own society. On the other hand, citizens believe in these investments and accept to pay high taxes because they know they can see then effective results.