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Rune Halvorsen and Bjørn Hvinden

This final chapter draws together the ways in which the contributions in the book show a considerable diversity among the Nordic countries. First, the authors find variation in how the Nordic countries have designed their education and other redistributive social protection policies. Second, they see diversity in the effective role of social regulation provisions in relation to minority ethnic youth or disabled youth. Third, they find variety in the changing relationship between regulation and redistribution in policy efforts with regard to these groups. Fourth and finally, they see mixed evidence on the impact of such efforts in improving the employment prospects of members of the groups. The chapter concludes with a critical discussion of current proposals for such advances and an outline of some alternative approaches to making progress in this area.

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H.K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe

This chapter begins by clarifying what is meant by ‘policy’ and ‘process’. It then focuses on the dominant paradigm, which depicts policy as a pattern of authoritative instrumental choice, involving design, choice and implementation and evaluation. The chapter then examines policy as a pattern of association – that is, a continuing, structured interaction among a diversity of participants, inside and outside government, the stabilization of which produces distinct clusters and linkages of actors (e.g. ‘policy communities’ or 'networks') – and the argument that this has produced a new mode of governing (‘governance’). The chapter also recognizes the way in which policy rests on meaning or shared understandings – of what is normal and what is problematic, what is known about problems, what action is appropriate and who should act – and examines how the structuring of shared knowledge allows participants to manage the co-existence of very different forms of understanding. Finally, the chapter examines the long-term dynamics and limits to policy – the tension between incrementalism and choice, stasis and change, the significance of socio-economic constraints, and of policy as its own cause or policy feedback.

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H.K. Colebatch

The task of ‘policy-making’ implies a ‘policy-maker’, but it is not easy to identify this actor – in fact, there is a tension between the imagery of individual choice, and the empirical accounts of continuing interaction in the policy process. It appears that achieving a policy outcome calls for the involvement of a range of significant figures, and this generates relatively stable patterns of linkage, but policy is seen as being ‘made’ by a clear, authoritative figure. This appears to give rise to two different accounts of policy, one an authority-based account of ‘official problem-solving’, the other an interactive account of the ‘collective managing of the problematic’. This chapter traces the ways in which linking between policy participants has been explained in the literature, culminating in the present use of ‘governance’. It points to the problematic relationship between identity, understanding and collaboration, the ways in which practitioners manage apparently conflicting accounts, and the significance of these tensions for the academic analysis of relationships in the policy process.

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Susan Niknami, Lena Schröder and Eskil Wadensjö

This chapter asks whether the labour market situation of minority ethnic youth improved or deteriorated during the 2000s, and whether there is evidence that major policy reforms since 2000 made a difference. As a first step toward such knowledge, this chapter analyses how the employment opportunities for minority ethnic youth have developed and how these developments differ between diverse categories of minority ethnic youth in four Nordic countries. The NEET (not in employment, education or training) rates are the highest for the foreign born and lowest for the native born with native-born parents in all countries. The differences are increasing with age, indicating that minority ethnic youth face more obstacles to being included in the labour market than into the school system. Except for Sweden, young women born in a non-Western country are more at risk of being NEET than their male peers.

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Alison Ritter and Kari Lancaster

In this chapter we explore Kingdon’s multiple streams heuristic, and examine how it has been taken up and used in policy studies. The critical question for policy analysis in Kingdon’s heuristic is not how given problems are selected and addressed through authoritative decision making, but rather the nature of the linkages between three continually flowing and largely independent streams: problems, policies and politics. We observe with interest the extent to which the multiple streams approach has stood the test of time, with its broad applicability across place and topic. Unlike other theories of the policy process, the heuristic put forward by Kingdon provides the tools for analysing a process which is complex, ambiguous and somewhat serendipitous. It includes both structural (windows) and interpersonal (policy entrepreneurs) considerations in the policy process overlaid on the three streams. Kingdon’s heuristic has been applied by scholars coming from various ontological and epistemological standpoints, but we argue that it is perhaps best understood as a constructionist approach.

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Raul Lejano, Mrill Ingram and Helen Ingram

Compelling stories are essential to policies, and as policies face challenges the stories change. This chapter discusses three distinct but intertwined themes: (i) policy as meta-narrative, (ii) policy as narration, and (iii) policy as narrative-networks. First, policymakers (and other actors) construct general stories that serve to capture and convey a policy initiative in a coherent, repeatable plot. But much of policy also emerges from the interpretive actions of street-level and other actors who actively narrate a policy into existence (possibly changing the script in the process). And, lastly, policy also takes the form of active communities, which we refer to as narrative-networks, which coalesce around a policy initiative and further its realization. These communities can challenge dominant policy narratives. We illustrate these ideas with the example of drug enforcement in the U.S., using contrasting narratives from the Reagan and Obama eras to dramatize the importance of narratives in the policy process.

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Rune Halvorsen, Bjørn Hvinden, Susan Kuivalainen and Mi Ah Schoyen

In the 2000s, the Nordic countries have been among the European countries with the highest share of young disability benefit recipients. An important question is therefore whether recent reforms of social protection policies in the Nordic countries have improved the employment prospects of young adults with disabilities. We address this question by looking at what implications income maintenance schemes, services and social regulations have for employment of disabled youth. We show that since the late 1990s, social protection policies have shifted in composition and balance between different types of policy instruments. Through a comparison of national policies, we offer an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing Nordic approaches and the scope for policy learning across the Nordic countries and beyond.

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Rodney Tiffen

Compelling stories are essential to policies, and as policies face challenges the stories change. This chapter discusses three distinct but intertwined themes: (i) policy as meta-narrative, (ii) policy as narration, and (iii) policy as narrative-networks. First, policymakers (and other actors) construct general stories that serve to capture and convey a policy initiative in a coherent, repeatable plot. But much of policy also emerges from the interpretive actions of street-level and other actors who actively narrate a policy into existence (possibly changing the script in the process). And, lastly, policy also takes the form of active communities, which we refer to as narrative-networks, which coalesce around a policy initiative and further its realization. These communities can challenge dominant policy narratives. We illustrate these ideas with the example of drug enforcement in the U.S., using contrasting narratives from the Reagan and Obama eras to dramatize the importance of narratives in the policy process.

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Oddný Mjöll Arnardóttir, Marianne Jenum Hotvedt, Kevät Nousiainen and Maria Ventegodt

This chapter examines Nordic laws and policies governing the labour market in light of the requirements of a contemporary disability human rights approach. It is argued that employment law and policy in line with the contemporary disability human rights approach seeks to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the ordinary labour market. The chapter compares how five Nordic countries perform in employment protection, anti-discrimination legislation and wage subsidy schemes. The comparison demonstrates that a unified Nordic disability employment law and policy does not exist. The chapter concludes that the Danish flexicurity model does not perform well from the perspective of the contemporary disability human rights approach.

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William Blomquist

Theories of the policy process that rely on socioeconomic characteristics as explanatory variables emphasize the importance of certain aspects of the context in which policymaking occurs. Those socioeconomic factors can affect the problems that policymakers try to address, the resources with which they can do so, and to some extent the options available for policy instruments and implementation. Socioeconomic variables thus shape both the possibilities and the constraints of policymaking. Socioeconomic characteristics have been the focus of many comparative policy studies, but whether and to what extent these studies have contributed to our understanding of the processes of policymaking is another matter. This chapter reviews prior work in comparative policy studies relying on socioeconomic characteristics, assesses the contributions of that work, and points to more recent efforts to capture the phenomenon of socioeconomic data as an input into policymaking.