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Keywords:

  • unemployment protection;
  • youth;
  • means-tested benefits;
  • poverty relief;
  • welfare state restructuring;
  • social assistance

In this study, we investigated if there has been a displacement in the type and coverage of welfare services available for young unemployed adults in Finland, Norway and Sweden over the last two decades. This question is important because a number of studies have argued that the generous unemployment benefits and extensive labour market intervention found in the Nordic welfare states shield young people from the most severe consequences of economic inactivity. In this article, we instead show that during this period, less generous means-tested unemployment and social assistance benefits have become the most important form of income protection for young people. In evidence, earnings-related unemployment benefits now cover only 10 per cent of unemployed Swedes and Finns and 45 per cent of unemployed Norwegians aged 24 years or younger. This development marks a significant change in our understanding of unemployment protection for young people in Nordic countries.