In a seminar hosted by GRIP in collaboration with the Centre for Care Research West (HVL), leading experts and scholars convened to discuss the multifaceted dimensions of the ongoing crises of care in the Nordic context.
The event, held on September 22, 2023, brought together panelists Heidi Haukelien, University of Southern-Eastern Norway, Hanne Marlene Dahl, Roskilde University, Halvard Vike, University of Southern-Eastern Norway, Lise Widding Isaksen, University of Bergen and Anette Fagertun from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences who shared their insights on the pressing issues surrounding care work and the welfare state. This seminar tackled crucial aspects of care, from its existential significance to its political implications and the challenges faced by the care sector in the Nordics.
The seminar commenced with an acknowledgment of the profound importance of care in human life. Care was described as a relational and social endeavor deeply ingrained in human interdependency. The discussion emphasized that care is not merely an individual act but is also influenced by historical, cultural, and institutional factors. Furthermore, care was unequivocally defined as a political issue, underlining its far-reaching implications.
During the seminar, care work was categorized into various forms: formal and informal, paid, and unpaid, and recognized and unrecognized. The discussion outlined how care work is commodified and politicized within the Nordic welfare state context, shedding light on the complex interplay of societal structures and care provision. Intriguingly, the seminar highlighted a shift in political awareness and attention towards care. While previously overlooked, care has now become a subject and object of political debates and reforms, reflecting its growing significance in contemporary society.
A striking contrast emerged between the Nordic perspective on care and that of other regions such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In the Nordics, issues like the aging population, welfare state sustainability, and workforce recruitment often take precedence over care-related challenges. This divergence in priorities raised questions about the unique context of the Nordic welfare model. The seminar also featured references to feminist and social science scholarship within the Nordic context. This body of research examines the intricate relationship between care and broader societal issues, including universalism, egalitarianism, and social inequality, providing valuable insights into the Nordic care landscape.
Neoliberalism’s impact on the welfare state and care was a recurring theme. The panelists discussed how neoliberalism has transformed the welfare state and, in doing so, potentially exacerbated the crisis in care. Nancy Fraser’s concept of a care crisis in late capitalist welfare states was also touched upon, emphasizing the devaluation and under compensation of care work. The disappearance of the commons due to various enclosures was discussed as a factor contributing to the care crisis. This phenomenon raised questions about how such enclosures might exacerbate existing care challenges.
As the seminar concluded, it became clear that the crises of care in the Nordics are multifaceted and deeply intertwined with political, economic, and social forces. The discussion provided valuable insights into the complex web of challenges and opportunities facing care work in the region. It also raised questions about the sustainability of the Nordic welfare model and the need for innovative solutions to address the care crisis. In sum, the seminar served as a platform for in-depth exploration and critical reflection on care in the Nordic context. It underscored the necessity of continued dialogue and research to navigate the challenges of the evolving care landscape in the Nordics and beyond.
If you missed the event and would like to catch-up on the crises of care discussions, please watch the recording of the event below: