Still a poster child for social investment? Changing regulatory dynamics of early childhood education and care in Denmark and Sweden
Caroline de la Porte
Summary, in English
This paper investigates the regulation of publicly organized early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Denmark and Sweden, through the regulatory welfare state (RWS) framework. The analysis focuses on how alterations in funding and quality of care are shaped by governmental and nongovernmental actors at national and local levels of government. Through focused structured analysis, we examine how various actors have shaped the funding and quality of childcare in Denmark and Sweden, from the early 2000s to 2020, with special attention to the period during and after the 2008 financial crisis. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, concerns about quality in care were raised on the political agenda by various actors in both countries, leading to decisions to improve the quality of care. Yet, the regulatory dynamics differ: In Denmark, the debate led to a decision in 2019, to implement a minimum statutory requirement of regulatory quality standards. From an RWS perspective, this outcome can be qualified as “double expansion,” because regulatory quality standards, and public funding for childcare increased. In Sweden, the debates about quality of ECEC led, in 2016, to political guidelines about quality standard, but with no additional national funds, and no mandatory regulatory quality requirements. Analytically, this can be qualified as “regulatory-led expansion,” that is requirements for quality standards, although the lack of additional national funds suggests that it will be difficult to improve ECEC quality substantially. The RWS perspective, which focuses on national and municipal levels of governance, also gives insights into hidden inequalities between municipalities regarding funding and quality of ECEC, which are more pronounced in Sweden than in Denmark.