A Contract Culture even in Scandinavia
In this article we discuss the changing character of the Norwegian Welfare State. In particular, our concern is with the new organizing principles that regulate the relationship and cooperation between public authorities and voluntary organizations and businesses. We are concerned with the emerging tendency towards a breakdown of the ‘monolithic’ welfare state, in particular with the downgrading of the state’s role as a welfare producer. This development provides an opportunity for old and new voluntary organizations and new commercial enterprises to move into the business of welfare through the delivery of contracted services with the public authorities. The emerging contract culture with its emphasis on competition, regulation through formal contracts and accountability, is changing the meaning of contracting between government and other sectors.
KeywordsNursing Home Public Sector Social Service Welfare State Public Authority
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- 1.We use the term ‘social service’ organizations in this article. While the connotations and thus the implicit understanding of the area covered by this term may be relatively unproblematic in the continental and Anglo-American literature, this is not the case in Norway. The most common term in Norway is ’organizations in the field of social and health care.’ In order to be in line with the international literature at large, we have chosen to omit the label ’health’. By doing so we will lose some precision, acknowledging that the boundary between social and health care is blurred and hard to define in a strict manner.Google Scholar
- 2.The Norwegian names are ‘Norske kvinners sanitetsforening’ and ‘Nasjonalforeningen for folkehelseri.Google Scholar
- 3.This information is based on an interview with two civil servants, a chief planner and a chief buyer, in the department for social and health care services in the city of Bergen.Google Scholar
- 4.MBO has been singled out as one of three organizational concepts that have become organizational ‘superstandards’ and that have penetrated all kinds of organizations worldwide during the 1980s and 1990s (Revik, 1998).The two other superstandards are performance appraisals and total quality mangement (ibid.). Google Scholar
- 5.In the Norwegian language this was called ‘virksomhetsplaner’ (VP).Google Scholar
- 6.These white papers and reports are: NOU 1995: 19: Statlige tilskuddsordninger til barn-og ungdomsorganisasjoner. St.meld nr 27 (1996–1997): Om statens forhold til frivillige organisasjoner. Statskonsult (Rapport 1995: 3): Statlige overferinger til frivillige organisasjoner. Statskonsult (Rapport 1996: 4): Statlig stottepolitikk og endringer i det frivillige organisajonslivet. Google Scholar
- 7.The first report, which was mainly based on a postal questionnaire to a selection of Norwegian municipalities, was initiated and financed by the employer and interest organization of the Norwegian municipalities (Kommunenes Sentralforbund). It was carried out by SNF (Stiftelesen for næringslivsforskning). The latter report (mainly based on telephone interviews) was initiated and financed by the interest organization of the employees in Norwegian municipalities (Norsk Kommuneforbund). It was carried out by FAFO (Fagbevegelsens forskningssenter). The third report analysed the use of competition and commercial actors in care for the elderly in Norway. It was initiated by the main trade union of Norwegian nurses (Norsk sykepleierforbund).Google Scholar
- 8.In a comparative Scandinavian perspective, Sweden is the country that has gone furthest in the direction of privatization in this area. More than half of the municipalities in Sweden have put social services out on contract. Almost 10 per cent of the nursing homes are now run by private actors. The process started in 1992, when the conservative party (Moderatarna) won the majority of the seats in a number of municipalities and county councils. The social democratic party was ideologically opposed to these new social ‘solutions’ during the first two or three years, but today the ideological controversies have more or less died down (Vdrt Land 3rd of February, 1999).Google Scholar
- 9.No doubt, this process has been slower and less comprehensive than in Sweden, probably due to factors like a ‘sounder’ national economy and a lower amount of the GNP spent on public services in the early 1990s, and less due to severe ideological differences between the two countries.Google Scholar
- 10.This organization has now been merged with another organization (HSH) which is the main organization for corporations engaged in commercial trade and service production. The director of APO, Gustav Berntsen, stated after the merger that his member organizations must now become more directed at business administration (Aftenposten 9th of February, 1998 ).Google Scholar