Public services sell-off ‘no impact’ on efficiency

Privatisation and competition within public services have not become the miracle cure that Sweden was hoping for twenty years ago, according to a new study by Sweden’s leading public services researchers.

Public services sell-off 'no impact' on efficiency

According to Laura Hartman of the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies (Studieförbundet för Näringsliv och Samhälle -SNS), authorities initially had high hopes with the scheme.

“Bureaucracy was expected to diminish, as well as the problems with efficiency that was plaguing the public services. Quality and democracy would be strengthened due to an increased choice for citizens,” Hartman wrote in an opinion piece in daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

But in the study, Hartman and her co-workers fail to see these hopes made real over the last twenty years.

In DN, Hartman wrote that Sweden has gone from being a country with substantial public service monopolies to increasingly allowing private, for-profit companies operate in the public sector.

According to Hartman, almost a fifth of all employees within the public sector are now working for private companies. Within the care-sector about 50 percent are privately employed.

Private pre-school employees make up 20 percent of all pre-school staff in Sweden and within Swedish school and elderly care systems, privately employed staff make up 10 percent.

When Sweden has privatised its public sector, the public financing has generally been kept while the implementation of the services has been contracted out.

In the study the authors reviewed existing research and statistics pertaining the public sector.

They were shocked to find that there is very little evaluation of the effects of the privatisation on Swedish society.

“From existing research it is not possible to find anything supporting that the reforms of the public sector has brought with it the great quality and efficiency improvements that were hoped for,” editor of the study, Hartman, said in a statement.

What is needed is extensive follow-up research and an evaluation of the system, according to the researchers.

“That 20 years have passed without a systematic evaluation of privatisation policies is unacceptable. Many within the welfare system are in a vulnerable position and they have the right to the best possible service within the framework of welfare goals and resources that we have agreed to,” Hartman wrote in DN.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.