Political parties and welfare associations

Detta är en avhandling från Umeå : Sociologi

Sammanfattning: Scandinavian countries are usually assumed to be less disposed than other countries to involve associations as welfare producers. They are assumed to be so disinclined due to their strong statutory welfare involvement, which “crowds-out” associational welfare production; their ethnic, cultural and religious homogeneity, which leads to a lack of minority interests in associational welfare production; and to their strong working-class organisations, which are supposed to prefer statutory welfare solutions. These assumptions are questioned here, because they cannot account for salient associational welfare production in the welfare areas of housing and child-care in two Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Norway.In order to approach an explanation for the phenomena of associational welfare production in Sweden and Norway, some refinements of current theories are suggested. First, it is argued that welfare associations usually depend on statutory support in order to produce welfare on a salient level. Second, it is supposed that any form of particularistic interest in welfare production, not only ethnic, cultural or religious minority interests, can lead to associational welfare.With respect to these assumptions, this thesis supposes that political parties are organisations that, on one hand, influence statutory decisions regarding associational welfare production, and, on the other hand, pursue particularistic interests in associational welfare production. It is hypothesised that political parties attempt to mould statutory decisions on associational welfare provision in accordance with the interests of associations with “congruent constituencies.”The aim of this thesis is to examine whether political party preferences for certain welfare associations might help to explain variations in statutory support for associational welfare provision. Two questions are raised: First, do parties differ in their attempts to influence statutory subventions and regulations of associational welfare provision, resulting in more or less favourable conditions for associational welfare? Second, do parties systematically differ in their policies with regard to more or less “congruent” associations?In order to investigate these questions, a comparison is made between political parties’ attempts to influence statutory regulation and subvention of Norwegian and Swedish associations active in the areas of day-care and housing. For this purpose, information is drawn from public documents and official statistics in order to identify more or less favourable policies and related partisan policies. In addition, supportive parties and favoured associations are compared with regard to their “constituencies.”The findings partly support the hypothesis. Although political parties partly pursued consensually association-friendly policies, they often varied their support for welfare associations, whereby both right-wing and left-wing parties partly advocated and partly rejected association-friendly policies in a conflicting way, resulting in varied degrees of statutory support. Furthermore, supportive parties shared “congruent constituencies” with those associations supported by respective parties’ policies. These findings indicate that partisan policies indeed make a difference for associational welfare production, whereby parties of any political colour can support associational solutions. Furthermore, partisan policies vary according to the involved associations’ more or less “congruent constituencies,” which can pursue welfare production out of various particularistic interests, be they religious-cultural or socio-economic in nature.