chapter  16
Co-Production and Service Quality: A New Perspective for the Swedish Welfare State
ByJOHAN VAMSTAD
Pages 20

The Swedish welfare state is known for its vast public sector, high taxes and a state that actively intervenes to create economic equality. Sweden’s path to become a universal welfare state with a high standard of living during the twentieth century was cleared by a continuously expanding public sector that developed, funded and provided social services for every Swedish citizen regardless of social class. The welfare state was built almost entirely by the public sector, and nonpublic service providers remain rare exceptions in most service areas today. How is the issue of service quality addressed in a system where all aspects of the services are cared for by the same public sector? There has traditionally been little competition between service providers, and freedom of choice has only recently become a political goal in the Swedish welfare state. The service quality has therefore been an issue for the public service providers themselves to develop, monitor and, if necessary, improve. Their method for doing so has been their knowledge and expertise as professional service providers. The service quality is guaranteed by the training and the accumulated experience of the professionals in areas such as health care, elderly care, schools, child care and so on. In fact, service quality has almost become synonymous with the level of professionalism in any given service area in Sweden.