Individualised service provision and the new welfare state: Are there lessons from Northern Europe for developing countries?

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Welfare states in the advanced countries are responding to the rise of new, immeasurable risks by relying less on social insurance and more on the provision of customised social services, such as education, which enable citizens to acquire the capacities needed to respond to the risks they face. These services are provided by a novel form of organisation that addresses the classic problems of public administration ‐ how to limit discretion while increasing the responsiveness of the organisation to changing circumstance ‐ by authorising front‐line workers to search for new solutions, but with the requirement that they explain and justify their decisions to peers. The successful Finnish school system exemplifies this new type of organisation. Research on the limited effectiveness of conditional cash transfers, which is the favoured strategy for improving social services in developing countries, suggests the need for customisation in this setting too, so changes in advanced country service provision may hold lessons for development.

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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