Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Can welfare systems remain in a society without growth?

Published: 2021-06-30

Three research projects involving a total of 10 postdocs received grants in the first round of Lund University’s research programme for excellence, focusing on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development. A total of 33 applications were submitted, of which 28 were reviewed by an external, international panel. Alexander Paulsson is part of the team that received grants for the research project Postgrowth Welfare Systems.

Alexander Paulsson and his colleagues want to find out if welfare systems can remain in a society without growth, in the new project Postgrowth Welfare Systems.

Hi, Alexander! You have together with colleagues from three other faculties received university-wide grants within the call Interdisciplinary projects focusing on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development. Congratulations! 

The project you are part of, Postgrowth Welfare Systems, what is it about?

"We will look into postgrowth welfare systems and we especially want to examine how welfare provision and economic growth may be decoupled."

What are your main questions?

"We ask 'how can welfare systems remain in a society without growth'. It seems like growth is slowing down, as we have seen for quite some time now in OECD countries, but more importantly we may ask whether growth should be slowed down in a more planned way as there is a strong negative link between growth on one hand and emissions and environmental degradation on the other. We therefore, as I mentioned, want to explore how welfare systems can be decoupled from economic growth. In the past, we have thought, 'we need growth to have welfare'. So, we ask 'can we decouple welfare systems from this growth'?"

How is the project organized?

"The project will be organised into three cross-cutting themes and different sets in which theories, methods and materials will be applied. Three postdocs will be recruited to match these themes and they will be working at three different faculties; LUSEM, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Science." 

Have you conducted research in this field before?

"Yes, I have been interested in these questions and problems for quite some time now and I have done some research as well but I haven't really had neither time nor funding to immerse myself into this, so I'm really looking forward to this work."

Can you briefly tell us about your fellow researchers in the project?

"I've known Max Koch from Faculty of Social Sciences for several years, we learned to know each other when I worked in a research project at The Pufendorf Institute. Max is the main applicant and will coordinate the project. I've also worked a bit with Mine Islar from LUCSUS at Pufendorf, but Johanna Alkan-Olsson from Faculty of Science is a new research colleague. The application was a joint application written by the four of us but Max Koch was the main applicant and did most of the work." 

Your project contains three themes: Existing links and potentials for decoupling of welfare and growth, Alternatives for the supply of welfare and Alternative demands for welfare. Which one is yours and what is it about?

"I will lead the theme of Alternatives for the supply of welfare and it is about how the supply of welfare may be made growth-resilient. We will focus especially on two main questions. One is about how alternative taxation systems can finance welfare and be justified philosophically and morally, considering intergenerational and environmental justice and the other one is focusing on scenarios for a reorganised supply of welfare, assuming greater taxation of inheritance, wealth, resource-use and fossil energy consumption. I will create scenarios for shifting the tax base to reorganise the ‘welfare supply’ in postgrowth contexts and with a focus on Sweden, these scenarios will subsequently be discussed and further developed in two digital expert forums on taxation and public planning."

Back from summer vacation, what is the very first thing you will do in the project?

"We will start the recruiting process of the three post-docs and when they finally are here we will start to work together. Connected to the project is also an International Academic Advisory Board, a selection of external collaborators, and we will invite them to a workshop in early autumn."

It's quite impressing, reading the feedback for your proposal where you reached no 1 in the top 3 ranking! That means you got the highest score compared to the other funded projects when it comes to the criterias Relevance, Quality, Novelty, Development potential, External engagement and Feasibility. How do you feel about that?

"I haven't thought so much about that, I'm just glad that we got the funding but yes, of course, you get extra happy to reach the top score. In general I think that all the applications that get funding must be really good and well-written."

Thank you so much for this "colleague check" Alexander, and good luck with your project!

More about Alexander Paulsson

  • Alexander did his PhD at LUSEM 2009-2014.
  • From 2016 Alexander is a Senior lecturer at LUSEM.
  • Alexander has been connected to The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute  for several years, as a post-doc 2015-2017 and as a researcher 2017-2019.

Alexander i the Research Portal

Learn more

Postgrowth Welfare Systems:

  • The funds comes from the university-wide funding: Interdisciplinary projects focusing on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development.
  • Out of 33 applications three projects got funds.  
  • The project ends 31 July 2024. 

Article at about the three funded projects:

Ten postdocs kick off excellence programme for sustainable development