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Scandinavian Social Security: Comparative and International Perspective

Welfare initiatives have become the primary tools that modern developed governments use to combat economic disparities. In this context, the case of Scandinavian countries, namely Sweden, is actively discussed as an excellent example of effective welfare policies. According to Szebehely (2018), the primary purpose of Scandinavian social security initiatives is to enable the citizens’ freedom of actions. The welfare program aims to establish a sense of social stability, meaning that residents of the country should have sufficient resources to be fully integrated in their communities. Szebehely (2018) determines two primary avenues of the policy’s impact on Swedish citizens. From one perspective, families receive sufficient support that allows parents to develop their educational or professional expertise without compromising on the children’s quality of life. This principle corresponds with the American vision of TANF, that sees welfare as additional stimulus and not a replacement of traditional income. On the other hand, Swedish initiatives also promote children’s development through effective pedagogical interventions. The purpose of them is to prepare younger citizens for full social and economic integration that will allow them to ensure their well-being early in adulthood.

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Similarly to TANF, Swedish welfare policies promote agency and eventual independence of the citizens. However, amid the current surge in migration processes, Dahlstedt and Neergaard (2019) report an increase in xenophobic attitudes in Sweden. According to them, older welfare policies are contested, as activists consider them to promote social inertia and subsequent unemployment. Under these circumstances, authorities are forced to reconsider their vision to remain true to the objective. However, a one-sided perspective may put needy families at risk, which is especially topical for less fortunate households in expensive areas. California is a prominent example of such an area, in which elevated housing and service costs aggravate the impact of poverty. The state has implemented the CalWORK program in accordance with the TANF policy (“California CalWORKs (TANF)”, 2021). The local government acknowledges food, medication, and housing disparities within communities, providing monthly payments for through county welfare departments. California also promotes employment and meaningful efforts of its residents, which is why only unemployed or underemployed people are eligible for CalWORK. Ultimately, these efforts serve to counteract at least some socioeconomic disparities that become particularly evident in generally wealthier regions.

They discussed initiatives are the product of centuries of social thought and philosophy aiming at providing less fortunate people with sustenance and sufficient means of self-realization. As the matter remain highly delicate, the state needs to take an appropriate stance and send the right message. Jordan et al. (2020) discuss the two extremities of welfare ideology, and each of them is seen as detrimental. On the one hand, over hostility toward less fortunate citizens inevitably aggravates socioeconomic disparities through tensions and a lack of cooperation. While the dangers of hostility are evident, the opposite approach is often associated with negative implications, as well. According to Jordan et al. (2020) positivity risk translates into condescending benevolence, which, in turn, perpetuates poverty even further. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act relies on a different approach, breaking the dichotomy. The Act makes a meaningful attempt to recognize people in need as equal, though less fortunate human beings who deserve to have their potential realized. To attain this goal, TANF utilizes funds as a temporary impetus for families to improve their education and employment status.

The primary principle, upon which the Act’s welfare paradigm is based reflects the importance of a person’s independence and agency. As discussed by Jordan et al. (2020), most views of poverty are trapped between hostility and condescending benevolence. Ultimately, the program has been unable to eliminate the problem in its current state. An and Choi (2019) theorize that the effectiveness of TANF is affected by the persistence of personal biases that entail the unequal distribution of funds. In this situation, the government is to reconsider the paradigm of social thought, that would shift the focus away from the domains of condescendence and hostility.


An, S., & Choi, G. Y. (2019). Is TANF truly accessible and helpful? Victims’ experiences with domestic violence screening under the family violence option. Affilia, 34(4), 461–480. Web.

California CalWORKs (TANF). (2021). Benefits. Web.

Dahlstedt, M., & Neergaard, A. (2019). Crisis of solidarity? Changing welfare and migration regimes in Sweden. Critical Sociology, 45(1), 121–135. Web.

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Jordan, J. A., Lawler, J. R., & Bosson, J. K. (2019). Ambivalent classism: The importance of assessing hostile and benevolent ideologies about poor people. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 43(1), 46–67. Web.

Szebehely, M. (2018). Care as employment and welfare provision — Child care and elder care in Sweden at the dawn of the 21st century. In H. M. Dahl and T. R. Eriksen (Eds.), Dilemmas of care in the Nordic welfare state. Routledge

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