• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Echoes of Clinton in Social Democrats' welfare reform bid

The Local · 4 Feb 2014, 08:16

Published: 04 Feb 2014 08:16 GMT+01:00

In my last column, I discussed the difficulties of distinguishing between right and left in Sweden’s election politics, at least when it comes to the Social Democrats. The example I used is how the party recently promised to cut the scope of the Swedish central government by 10 billion kronor ($1.5 billion). But it doesn’t stop there. The Social Democrats have gone from challenging the scope of government bureaucracy to criticizing overutilization of the social safety net.

The Social Democrats in the capital region of Stockholm recently published a "Contract for the future – for the Stockholm region". The first of four points is entitled: "No one who can work should be on social security". The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported that, on the national level, the party has gone even further. A new goal is to sign an “education contract” with those under 25-years-old who have not completed their studies. According to DN, "Those who are not ready to fulfill their studies according to an individual study plan will not be granted social security".

This idea, put forth by former Social Democratic school minister Ibrahim Baylan, was rapidly attacked by the left. Daniel Suhonen, president for the left-leaning think tank Katalys and himself a Social Democrat, criticized the proposal as being "very right-wing".

Of course, the Social Democrats do not simply want to put pressure on youth who depend on social security; they also want to direct various forms of aid to help these individuals succeed to attain their upper-secondary school degrees. The idea seems to be to connect public handouts to a requirement that young people participate in education programmes. And presumably, exceptions will be made for those who, for various reasons, cannot be expected to participate.

We shouldn’t be surprised if the Social Democrats eventually retract their proposal, or at least clarify it, in the wake of initial criticism. And many question if the party really wants to introduce such a welfare reform, as it goes against the idea that basic safety nets be granted to all, regardless of their individual behavior.

But should we really be surprised? In the United States, the  “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act”, which marked a fundamental shift in both the methods and goals of federal cash assistance to the poor in the US, was supported by the Republicans but signed into law by Democrat Bill Clinton in 1996.

Changing the fundamentals of social security might, if implemented correctly, retain basic safety nets while reducing the risk of long-term welfare dependency. Most likely, the Social Democrats are striving towards this goal. And like Bill Clinton, they might have a better chance of actually implementing such a change than a center-right government. As the famous saying goes, “only Nixon could go to China”.

It might seem as a shock that Swedish Social Democrats would go so far in challenging generous public benefits. But then again, in neighboring Denmark, which has an ever bigger welfare state, this has been a common practice during the latest few years. Social Democrat Finance Minister Bjarne Corydon last year explained: “If we are to ensure support for the welfare state, we must focus on the quality of public services rather than transfer payments”.

Story continues below…

Of course, these ideas can be seen as a way of winning over centrist voters during the election campaign. And they likely have limited support within the party ranks. But they are, nevertheless, put forth by leading Social Democrats. This shift seems very similar to the move towards the center by the Moderates, as they begun morphing into the “New Moderates” in 2005.

An important issue in the upcoming election, of course, is how this new line in Social Democrat policy sits with the left-wing of the labour movement. And for that matter, if the left parties win the election, how will the Social Democrats co-operate with the Left Party, where radical left ideas are still prominent and welfare reform isn't even on the agenda? The only thing that is clear is that Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven really wants to make the distinction between right and left in Swedish politics even more difficult. 

Dr. Nima Sanandaji, a Swedish writer of Kurdish origin, has written numerous books and reports about policy issues in Sweden. He is a regular contributor to The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Opinion
The eight ingredients that created the Swedish model
Where did the Swedish model begin? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

What is the Swedish model and who invented it? Thinktank chairman Anders Källström presents the eight reasons behind Sweden's success.

Sweden lack fire without Zlatan in Slovenian stalemate
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

But who are the other players who got a chance to shine ahead of the Euro 2016?

Swedish economy beating European giants in 2016
New numbers from Statistics Sweden paint a positive picture. Photo: Micke Larsson/TT

Sweden's economy is leaving the likes of Germany and Great Britain in its wake, figures suggest.

Video
Meet Dynamite Erik, a Swede who blows things up for fun
Who doesn't want to blow up a computer? Photo: Erik Johansson

The Local talks to a Swedish farmer who has turned his hobby of blowing things up into a YouTube sensation.

Swedish police to trial use of taser guns
A file photo of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The weapons are designed to incapacitate assailants through an electrical current.

Swedish woman denied job because of her head scarf
Gothenburg resident Ruya El Hattawi, who says she was denied a job because of her veil. Photo: Private

Delight over tying down a summer job soon gave way to shock when the offer was withdrawn.

Fans threatening boycott of Johnny Depp's Stockholm gig
Johnny Depp and the Hollywood Vampires performing at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Photo: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

But others were queuing outside on Monday morning.

Good news: The Swedish summer has returned
It could be time for that first swim of the year in Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Time to put away those waterproofs and bring out the bathing suits once more.

Zlatan's sore calf forces him to sit out Sweden's friendly
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Sweden team's training camp. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT

So does that mean Slovenia will beat Sweden on Monday?

'Sweden would not be able to defend Gotland'
File photo of a military exercise. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

Sweden would not be able to make a stand if it came to an invasion of the Baltic Sea island by foreign forces, one expert has said.

Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Gallery
People-watching: May 27th-29th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
3,315
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se