Iceland: Uncovering the Nordic Welfare State with Stefán Ólafsson

Interested in the Nordic universal welfare systems and how effective welfare can be in times of crisis? How has Iceland fared compared to the other Nordic countries, before and after the Great Recession of 2008? Can this teach us anything about how to tackle Covid?

Join the editor of, Nicola Witcombe, on her virtual visit around the Nordic countries, this time to Stefán Ólafsson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Iceland. Stefán has had a long career looking at social policy in Iceland and elsewhere, and is one of the editors of the well-known book ’Welfare and the Great Recession: A Comparative Study'.

In this podcast, you will hear an historical overview of Iceland’s welfare policy since the middle of the last century. You will also hear about a range of related issues, like whether Iceland has been a failed neoliberal experiment and about Icelandic 'business Vikings'. The podcast was recorded in January 2021.


Extra material: More on the Icelandic pension system & income-testing

This extra material is for those who would like to hear more about the specifics of the Icelandic pensions system and how it functions.

Further reading:

  • Guðný B. Eydal, and Stefán Ólafsson, eds., Welfare developments in Iceland from 1988 to 2008. (University of Iceland, Social Sciences Research Institute; Reykjavík, 2012).
  • Lars Mjöset, Bernard Enjolras and Karl Henrik Sivesind, eds., Nordic Varieties of Capitalism Comparative Social Research Special Issue (London: Emerald Group Publishing; 2011). 2011).
  • Stefán Ólafsson, Mary Daly, Olli Kangas, and Joakim Palme, eds. Welfare and the Great Recession: A Comparative Study (Oxford University Press; 2019.

More about the podcast series

’The Nordics Uncovered: Critical Voices from the Region’ is a new podcast series to try to find the answers to big questions like: What is the state of the Nordics today? How do researchers investigate Nordic society and concepts? And smaller questions like: What leads people to research such a range of weird and wonderful subjects, and how is it done in practice?
In this podcast series, different researchers (from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany and the US) give listeners their take on subjects they have studied and researched for years. They also give an overview of key research areas and how this all plays into the development of society.
Stefán's podcast is the first in the series and next time it will be Janne Holmén, Associate Professor in the Department for Education at Uppsala University in Sweden, who will be talking about key geopolitical events and trends and how these influence education policy in the Nordics, as well as what it means to be a 'small state' on the world stage.