Professional Discretion in Swedish Welfare Institutions: What Factors Influence Perceived Discretion?

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Discretion is a central topic in the literature on service delivery of frontline professionals, especially in the light of neoliberal transformations in all welfare states. Previous studies have focused on exploring “discretionary space” and its meaning for service delivery, but these studies have not been able to clearly identify single determinants of perceived discretion. This study aims to contribute to the discussion by investigating factors that influence perceived discretion. To this end, data were examined from a nationwide survey of Swedish frontline professionals (N = 1319) within two major welfare organizations: the Public Employment Service and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Hierarchical OLS regression was applied, resulting in the identification of two major influencing factors. Frontline professionals who reported higher levels of work pressure showed less perceived discretion, and frontline professionals working at the Public Employment Service showed higher levels of perceived discretion than those working at the Social Insurance Agency, highlighting the importance of organizational context for discretion. Greater work experience also proved to increase the feeling of having discretion at work. The results of this paper add to the existing literature by proposing a model of factors that are important for perceived discretion by frontline professionals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Professions and Organization
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)364-376
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 22 October 2022.


  • Discretion
  • Welfare institutions
  • Frontline professionals
  • Welfare states
  • Quantitative methods

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