Public transfer payments and public service production have a great impact on people’s living conditions, behaviour and life cycles, and changes in welfare policy play a crucial role in social development in the broad sense. At the Institute for Social Research we research the political, social and economic driving forces behind the development of the welfare state, the effects of existing schemes for inequality and labour market participation, and the interplay between the welfare production that takes place in the labour market, families and the voluntary sector. Research relevant to welfare policy is conducted in all three of the research groups, and our interest and competence in this field has increased in recent years. We apply a broad spectrum of methodologies, from qualitative interviews and document analyses of survey data and survey experiments to analyses of registry data.
In ongoing projects we study the political processes behind reforms to key benefit schemes such as old-age pension and health-related payments. What is the significance of how the political decision-making process is organised, the positioning vis-à-vis key actors and the conception of reality and value orientation that are expressed in the political debate? We also study the attitudes of the population to welfare policy. What is the impact of immigration and economic globalisation on the support for the welfare state, and how does opinion formation vary according to the national and local context?
A third thematic area is the privatisation of welfare services and the opening of these to competition. Significant changes have taken place in the Nordic countries in recent years in the interplay between public, commercial and non-profit service production. We wish to cast light on the impacts of alternative models and decisions based on an ideal of active co-citizenship.
Last, but not least, we are concerned with studying the effects of welfare policy. Among the questions we attempt to answer are: Do labour market interventions work? What are the consequences of the pension reform for economic sustainability and income security in old age? How do the benefit schemes affect the availability of employment and the demand by enterprises for a low-qualified workforce?
We have several long-term projects on the topic of welfare, from which we have published a number of academic articles during 2013. One of the projects we are working on is part of the Research Council of Norway’s evaluation of the pension reform, and concerns the policies behind the sick pay scheme; and last, but not least, a large project about the Norwegian benefits system. In addition we have conducted more delimited studies with an applied purpose. For example, we have helped to compile a status report on social inequality in health and living conditions, and have finalised a project on employment scheme benefits. We also place great emphasis on disseminating our research through seminars and conferences. One example to mention is a well-attended seminar on a women-friendly pension system in the autumn of 2013.