Graying States: Elder Care Policy in Alberta, Canada and Sweden

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Betts, Gabrielle Elise




This dissertation examines how, in the postwar period many OECD countries began to develop elder care policies, but did so in different ways. In the postwar period, Sweden came closer to what would be considered the 'gold standard' for elder care, investing a substantial share of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in a comprehensive, publicly financed elder care system while jurisdictions like Alberta have left it largely to private - household and market - solutions. However, in an era of neo-liberal globalization, fiscal pressures associated with population aging may be leading not
only 'liberal' jurisdictions like Alberta, but also 'social democratic' ones like Sweden to rely increasingly on markets and households.

The core argument of this thesis is that there is a common trajectory in Albertan and Swedish elder care policies in a neo-liberal direction. Nevertheless, differences in their original policy base continue to be reflected in their current policies. This calls for a more nuanced version of the path-dependency thesis.

While it is appropriate to examine national policy in the Swedish case since the majority of the policy decisions
and innovation occurring in the elder care field are national, in Canada elder care is a provincial responsibility, although some policies affecting the elderly are pan-Canadian such as pensions, and the Canada Health Act. I chose Alberta because it is arguably Canada’s most conservative province; thus, it offers an interesting contrast (most unlike case) to Sweden, which has been the paradigm exemplar for social democratic social policies.

Elder care is a highly gendered issue since the empirical reality is that the eldest elder care recipients are often women as women typically outlive
men, and women provide the bulk of both formal and informal elder care as wives, daughters or paid caregivers. As such, this thesis uses the feminist political economy and the ethics of care to provide a gender-sensitive critical analysis of elder care in Alberta and Sweden from the post-World War Two period until the end of 2011.


Political Science




Carleton University

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Political Science

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Theses and Dissertations

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