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Norwegian knowledge transfer at EXPO:

Welfare on the agenda in China

The Chinese government is seeking to build a society that emphasises redistribution of welfare and social security. Nordic welfare research has been chosen as the theme of the final seminar hosted by the Research Council at the World Exhibition EXPO 2010 in Shanghai.

Two old Chinese men playing Chinese Xiangqi (Photo: Shutterstock) The Chinese have revived the 2000-year-old term, Xiaokang, which describes a harmonious society in which most people are moderately well off. To date several hundred million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, but many still remain. The vision of the Chinese government up to 2020 is that everyone should be able to have a share in China’s formidable economic growth.

Strengthening cooperation

Like a number of other countries China is now showing an increasing interest in the Nordic welfare model. Chinese delegations have been coming en masse to the Nordic countries to study various aspects of our societies. Research cooperation has also taken on new momentum.

Modern Shanghai. Photo: Shutterstock Modern Shanghai (Photo: Shutterstock) “The Research Council is hoping that this seminar will reinforce the good contacts we already have with China and will promote further cooperation in the field of welfare research,” says Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director of the Research Council’s Division for Strategic Priorities.

As part of the Research Council’s new Research Cooperation with China programme (CHINOR) further collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is being planned. This cooperation will focus primarily on welfare research and Norwegian activities will be carried out under the auspices of the Research Programme on Welfare, Work and Migration (VAM).

Facilitating an exchange of viewpoints

The Nordic welfare research seminar at EXPO 2010 is held on 14-15 September. Most of the Norwegian researchers invited to participate are already involved in joint research activities with Chinese researchers and are well acquainted with Chinese conditions. Chinese researchers will also be providing presentations and commentary at the seminar.

Expo logo "This will give us an opportunity to compare conditions in Norway and China and to exchange viewpoints from the perspectives of both countries. Despite the huge differences between us, we also share common challenges. Change in the composition of our populations is one of these. Although China, with its one-child policy, will face even greater challenges than we will, the fact that the number of elderly in the population is growing and the working-age population is shrinking is a problem that we share," says Steinar Kristiansen, Senior Adviser in the Research Council’s Department for Society and Public Policy.

Broad scientific programme

Mr Kristiansen is responsible for the scientific programme of the seminar, which will consist of four sessions:

  • The Nordic model – framework and institutions, development and change
  • Demographics, generations and family
  • Globalisation and regional development
  • Workers’ rights and civil society

Nordic research cooperation

Most of the researchers participating at the seminar are affiliated with the two Nordic Centres of Excellence working in the field of welfare research under the auspices of NordForsk. The centres are studying the historical development of the Nordic welfare model and its ability to adapt to changing internal and external conditions.

A book entitled "The Nordic Welfare State" was recently published by the research network NordWel (The Nordic Welfare State – Historical Foundations and Future Challenges), one of the two Centres of Excellence. This is the first time such a broad presentation of the Nordic model has been available in Chinese.

Chinese interest on the rise

“The Chinese authorities, researchers and students have gradually become more interested in the idea of a socially active state as a way of overcoming the many problems the country is working hard to resolve. So it is natural to look to the Nordic region where we have managed to achieve a relatively even distribution of income and welfare provision for the whole population, combined with generally positive and stable social and economic development,” explains Professor Stein Kuhnle, co-editor of "The Nordic Welfare State" and one of the Norwegian participants at the EXPO seminar.

Written by:
Siw Ellen Jakobsen/Else Lie. Translation: Anna Godson/Carol B. Eckmann
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