Welfare and Social Sustainability (OsloMet)

Project Background

The Norwegian welfare state has emerged as successful in ensuring redistribution, employment, gender equality and general welfare among Norwegian citizens. Even in crisis periods such as the financial crisis of 2008 and the corona crisis of 2020-21, Norway has fared relatively well in this respect.

Nevertheless, we see development trends that allow us to question the sustainability of the welfare state, both in the longer term and as a nation-state project. We see increasing social inequality, increasing child poverty, a declining proportion of the working population, and new migration to Norway. At the same time, we are facing a technological development that means that many professions in the future may be replaced by machines.

This places new demands on the competence of the population, an ageing of the population that entails fewer taxpayers of working age, and more people who need care and health services, and not least we face global climatic challenges that lead to changes in our way of life and future horizons.

The concept of social sustainability is about a society’s ability to meet the needs of its current and future inhabitants in a way that ensures the welfare and quality of life of all, including those who are marginalized or disadvantaged, and potentially including a historical and present-day focus on global equality. For the welfare state, the concept is about preserving and further developing the mechanisms and institutions that ensure financing, production, quality assurance and support for central welfare schemes.

Project Purpose

Within this framework, the aim of the project is to study the social sustainability of the welfare society at different areas and levels.  When it comes to thematic areas, there may be specific policy areas such as labor market or family policy, or immigration policy. In terms of levels, it may be about understanding reforms in social policing (questions about the organization of social work services, the relationship between home and work, or in everyday life, standard of living and living in different segments of society. It may also apply to analyzing current challenges (including climate change and global migration) from a decolonial perspective, which considers in the analysis historical patterns of inequality, regarding indigenous people and globally, and how this shapes the present situation and future possibilities.

Proposed topics/issues for the thesis

How is poverty portrayed in the Norwegian press?

How does Norwegian policy towards transgender people compare to the UK?

Do social workers contribute to making welfare services (e.g. in school or health) socially sustainable?

Several possible inputs to consumption studies:

From inherited and used, to reuse and upcycling. New symbolic class divisions in consumption?

VegetaRianism, Veganism and Organic Food: Climate Idealism, Animal Welfare or HealthConcerns?

New family configurations, new care landscapes and the adaptations of the welfare state – for example, care services for older immigrants or LGBT+?

Visually impaired people’s use of digital media in education, work, or leisure – new opportunitiesor new challenges?

Relevant for which study options

All master’s programmes at the Department of Social Studies, Child Welfare and Social Policy

Master students who want to write within the topic of welfare and social sustainability will get individual supervisors from the subject group Globalisation and Social Sustainability, but we also take turns participating in a group that receives input and follow-up from each other and each other’s supervisors. The group is led by Ivan Harsløf, Randi Wærdahl, Erika Gubrium and Rune Halvorsen

About us

Globalisation and Social Sustainability investigates how global challenges like migration, war and conflict, climate change and poverty, materializes in national and local contexts, change and shape social work and social policy. In addition, the unit focuses on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) and how international social work may contribute to achieve them.

The group have a goal to develop its international cooperation in research and education and contribute to strengthening students’ ability to analytically reflect and critically understand how international developments shape social work and social policy, on local, national, and transnational levels.

This unit is part of the Department of Social Work, Child Welfare and Social Policy.


Ivan Harsløf – ivaha@oslomet.no
Randi Wærdahl – randwa@oslomet.no
Erika Gubrium – erikgu@oslomet.no
Rune Halvorsen – runeh@oslomet.no

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