Balancing welfare and market institutional logics. Procurement regulations for social services, such as addiction treatment, in four Nordic welfare countries
Background and Aim: In increasingly market oriented welfare regimes, public procurement is a crucial instrument influencing who produces which services . This article analyzes recent procurement regulations in four Nordic welfare countries, from the point of view of a subfield of welfare services, addiction treatment. The implementation of public procurement in this field can be viewed as a domain struggle between the market logic and the welfare logic . By comparing the revisions of the regulations after the EU procurement directives from 2014 in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden we try to identify factors that influence the balance between these two logics.
Data and theoretical perspective: We base our study on the recently revised procurement laws in the four countries, and adherent guidelines or other government documents. The analysis is inspired by institutional logics, looking at historical patterns of practices, interests, crucial actors, and procurement as rules for practices that are linked to different logics.
Results: Procurement laws and guidelines are today markedly different in the four countries. Norway defends consequently a Nordic welfare perspective, with a protected role for the Third Sector, emphasis on quality criteria in social and health care legislation, and strong user influence in the procurement process. In both Finland and Sweden, there are visible conflicts between the welfare and the market perspective. In Denmark, procurement is not yet used. The procurement regulation is market oriented, but the market is, de facto, regulated with consumer choice, accreditation and inspection of providers, aiming at protecting weaker service users.
Conclusion: Procurement regulations show that the four Nordic countries adopt the market logic to very different degrees. In Denmark procurement has not changed the liberal tradition. Norway is the defender of the Nordic welfare logic. Finland and Sweden are both tackling the conflicts between market and welfare logics. The history of procurement practices, degree of private provision, political struggles and economy are all decisive background factors behind differences.