Northern European Rehabilitation Services in the Context of Changing Healthcare, Welfare, and Labour Market Institutions: A Theoretical Framework

  • Ivan HarsløfEmail author
  • Ingrid Poulsen
  • Kristian Larsen


This chapter provides a rough outline of the background to interdisciplinary studies of medical and vocational rehabilitation services in Northern European welfare states. We emphasize the critical role of such services in the early development of welfare state arrangements, closely tied to efforts to build cohesive nation states, and cater for industrial labour markets. Understanding this historical background is important for recognizing how these services are functioning under the current postnational and postindustrial conditions. In establishing a compromise between capital and labour, such services played an instrumental role in mitigating social conflicts. Workers knew they had access to wide-ranging health and vocational services, including assistance for longer-term retraining—provided as statutory citizenship rights—should they ever need it. Comprehensive rehabilitation services, along with general encompassing national healthcare services, instituted health and return-to-work processes as a state responsibility. In the current postnational and postindustrial context, where rehabilitation services no longer constitute the proud flagship of the welfare state, it seems that the state is abdicating responsibilities. Increasing emphasis on governance networks involving non-state actors, public-private partnerships, hyper-efficient hospital services, and place-then-train reemployment models seems to be leading to the individualization of responsibility for health and employability.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Harsløf
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ingrid Poulsen
    • 2
  • Kristian Larsen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social PolicyOslo Metropolitan UniversityOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Neurorehabilitation, RigshospitaletUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Learning and PhilosophyAalborg University CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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