A Historical Analysis of the Development of the Unemployment-benefit Reforms and Early-retirement Reforms

Dalia Ali Al Naimi

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines how the Danish welfare state has changed over time. To answer this question, I chose to investigate two reforms that have a played a significant role in changing the welfare state in relation to 'unemployment' and the 'unemployed person'. I investigate how the government observes 'unemployment' and the ‘unemployed person' through the unemployment-benefit reforms of 1972-2011, and how the gov- ernment defines 'unemployment' and 'older employee' through the early-retirement reforms of 1979-2011.
My thesis is based on a historical analysis, as I investigate the developments in Danish employment reform from the 1970s through 2011. For this reason, the empirical evidence in my thesis consists of state docu- ments: legislation, circulars, reports and reforms in the field of unemployment benefits and early-retirement reform. I use ‘document analysis’ as a method of collecting and processing data before I start my analysis.
I rely on Luhmann's observation theory and system theory in my thesis. My choice of observation theory allows me to be in the second order of observation as I analyse the government's history of employment re- forms and changing definitions of unemployment, as well as the effect such changes have had on the Danish welfare state. My use of system theory focuses on government communication. By choosing this method, I analyse the big changes in government communication through the decades, thereby illustrating how the government has defined 'unemployment' and 'unemployed' in new ways. This analysis of changes in the Dan- ish government’s methodology is essential in order to identify the changes in government communication.
The analysis consists of two parts. The first part is an analysis of the unemployment benefits reform, and the second part is about the early-retirement reform.
The conclusion of the thesis indicates that the two reforms have had an influence on how the welfare state constructs 'unemployment' and the ‘unemployed individual'. The analysis indicates that the Danish welfare state has become a workfare state. This means that there are stricter requirements for defining the ‘unem- ployed individual' than there used to be, and Danish society expects the unemployed to be responsible for their unemployment situation. At the same time, it is observed that the construction of 'unemployment' has also changed: it is now an individual’s problem, whereas in the past it was considered to be a social problem.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages92
SupervisorsNiels Thyge Thygesen