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Helene BrodinSenior lecturer

About me

Helene Brodin holds a PhD in Economic History and is Associate Professor of Social Work, Stockholm University. Her main research interests concern gender, care policies and care work with a special focus on how New Public Management (NPM) has affected working conditions and the distribution of services in the welfare sector.


Helene leads the project Workplace violence in home-based social services; approaches, responses and reporting of client-initiated threats and violence in four different fields of social work funded by Forte. Previously, she was responsible for the project Sustainable care in a customer choice model? Dilemmas and possibilities of small care enterprises, also funded by Forte.

Helene has participated in several national and international projects, such as Care work on different arenas (PI Marta Szebehely, funded by Forte); Individualised care and universal welfare (PI Marta Szebehely, funded by Forte); The future of health and social care for older people living at home (PI Minna Zechner, funded by NOS-HS); and Social inequalities in ageing (PI Johan Fritzell, funded by Nordforsk).


Helene primarily teaches at the master level, where she is responsible for the master courses Social work with older people; Social work and ageing; and Organisation and leadership in social work. She is interested in supervising essays on gender and/or intersectional perspectives on social work.

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Equal Opportunities? Gendering and Racialising the Politics of Entrepreneurship in Swedish Eldercare

    2020. Helene Brodin, Elin Peterson. NORA 28 (2), 99-112


    This paper contributes a Swedish perspective on how selected feminist movement ideas, such as women's right to economic independence, are being appropriated by neoliberal policies. Swedish governments have argued that opening up the publicly funded eldercare sector to private providers would advance entrepreneurship undertaken by women and immigrants. In this article, we critically explore the ambiguity of the gender equality and ethnic diversity arguments used to justify private sector involvement in publicly funded eldercare in Sweden. We draw upon Carol Bacchi's theory of policies as gendering practices to argue that the discourses of equal opportunity underpinning the politics of entrepreneurship in the home care sector obscure and recreate inequalities. Our analysis, based on interviews with politicians, public officials and interest organizations involved in the market for Swedish eldercare, shows that the politics of entrepreneurship in the home care sector privilege entrepreneurs who reflect the white masculine gendering of entrepreneurship and disadvantage those with subject positions deviating from the normative entrepreneur. Our findings suggest that policy-engineered entrepreneurship is a poor tool in the struggle for gender equality, as this kind of policymaking is likely to operate in tandem with gendering and racializing practices that impede socioeconomic progress.

    Read more about Equal Opportunities? Gendering and Racialising the Politics of Entrepreneurship in Swedish Eldercare
  • Doing business or leading care work? Intersections of gender, ethnicity and profession in home care entrepreneurship in Sweden

    2019. Helene Brodin, Elin Peterson. Gender, Work and Organization 26 (11), 1640-1657


    This article critically explores assumptions underpinning Swedish eldercare policies that introducing market practices in publicly funded eldercare services advances women's entrepreneurship. We argue that gendered privileges and disadvantages are being recreated on tax-funded home care markets; furthermore, gendered inequalities intersect with ethnicity and profession in management of small-scale care companies, dealings with authorities governing home care services and standards for home care work. However, we find that the salience of categories depends on the context in which they emerge. While gender and profession are dominant in management, gender and ethnicity influence interactions with authorities. Only in standards for home care work do all categories simultaneously shape the business approaches of care entrepreneurs. Our analysis, based on data on size and growth of home care companies and interviews with small-scale care entrepreneurs, suggests that regulations and practices privilege big companies and care entrepreneurs who echo the white, masculine gendering of entrepreneurship as 'doing business' and disadvantage small-scale entrepreneurs focusing on leading care work to produce quality care.

    Read more about Doing business or leading care work? Intersections of gender, ethnicity and profession in home care entrepreneurship in Sweden
  • Omsorgsföretag i med- eller motvind? Genusperspektiv på småföretagande i hemtjänsten i Stockholm

    2018. Helene Brodin, Elin Peterson. Äldreomsorger i Sverige, 121-136


    I detta kapitel, ”Omsorgsföretagande i med- eller motvind? Genusperspektiv på småföretagande i hemtjänsten i Stockholm”, undersöker Helene Brodin och Elin Peterson erfarenheterna av att driva mindre hemtjänstföretag i Stockholm. Analysen bygger dels på data från stadens verksamhetsuppföljningar och dels på 24 intervjuer med VD och/eller ägare av små hemtjänstföretag. Brodin och Peterson visar att kundvalsmodellen resulterat i en misstroendekultur, där alla misstänker alla för ojust spel. Småföretagarna känner sig utpekade som fuskare men misstänker samtidigt att biståndsbedömare favoriserar vissa företag. För att stävja att företagen fuskar har Stockholms stad utvecklat ett omfattande styrsystem, men detta är detaljerat och stelbent och förhindrar både företag och personal att vara flexibla och lyhörda inför variationer i de äldre hjälptagarnas behov. Brodin och Peterson pekar på att kvinnliga företagare oftare än manliga ser delaktighet i den dagliga omsorgen som nödvändig för att kunna garantera god omsorg. Graden av närvaro i den dagliga omsorgen har också betydelse för hur företagarna upplever styrningen av hemtjänsten – ju närmare det dagliga omsorgsarbetet de står, desto större problem beskriver de.

    Read more about Omsorgsföretag i med- eller motvind? Genusperspektiv på småföretagande i hemtjänsten i Stockholm
  • At the intersection of marketisation, diversity and migration

    2018. Helene Brodin. European Journal of Social Work 21 (2), 222-234


    This article explores how paid family eldercare in Sweden is reshaped at the intersection of marketisation, accommodation to ethnic diversity and globalisation of international migration. Using a mixed-methods case study approach, the paper examines how implementation of customer choice in publicly funded homecare services to older adults in the city of Stockholm interacts with paid family care. The results show that some private homecare companies employ family caregivers as a business strategy; moreover, that the majority of employed family caregivers are foreign-born women coming primarily from non-European countries. The findings point towards gains but also risks for all parties involved. Though the family caregiver is ensured an income, the employment is generally associated with low wages and weak social security. In addition, employed family carers often lack formal training, which affects documentation procedures and monitoring of the daily care work. It is therefore difficult to evaluate the quality of care services performed by employed family carers. The results indicate a need for policy-makers to reconsider how customer choice in eldercare interacts with paid family care. Otherwise, unintended consequences may result in negative effects for integration as well as social work practice with foreign-born older adults.

    Read more about At the intersection of marketisation, diversity and migration
  • Sjuksköterskan som hemtjänstföretagare

    2017. Helene Brodin, Elin Peterson. Genusperspektiv på vård och omvårdnad, 53-70


    Många små hemtjänstföretag drivs idag av kvinnor. Men att inte passa in i stereotypen för en ”äkta företagare” kan vara ett hinder för kvinnors småföretagande inom äldreomsorgen. En ny studie från Stockholms Universitet visar på hur genus, etnicitet och profession formar villkoren för småföretagande inom hemtjänsten. Studien visar på skillnader i hur företagarna förstår sitt ledarskap, hur de ser på kompetenskrav inom hemtjänsten samt hur de upplever samarbetet med kommunen. Kvinnor är i större utsträckning än män är involverade i den dagliga omsorgen. Samtidigt visar studien att ju närmare företagarna står den dagliga omsorgen, desto fler problem upplever de. 

    Read more about Sjuksköterskan som hemtjänstföretagare
  • Choice, needs or equality? Discursive struggles about defining home care for older people in Sweden

    2021. Elin Peterson, Helene Brodin. Ageing & Society


    Focusing on Swedish home care for older people, this article explores the discursive (re)production of home care as an institution. Equality and universal service provision have been described as defining features of the Nordic care regime. At the same time, Nordic research has highlighted a shift in social care policy, from a focus on universalism and egalitarian ideals towards a focus on freedom of choice, diversity and individualised services. This article takes as a starting point that home care for older people is formed by different and potentially conflicting ideas. We understand home care as a contested formation and define institutional change in terms of ongoing discursive struggles. The analysis draws on qualitative semi-structured interviews with key informants, including politicians, local authority officials and representatives of interest organisations. Informants were engaged in policy making, implementation or advocacy related to care for older people. We examine the meanings attached to home care for older people and the analysis reveals three different discourses – on choice, needs and equality. By comparing and contrasting discourses, we reveal silences, conflicts and tensions, and highlight the politics involved in (re)creating home care as an institution.

    Read more about Choice, needs or equality? Discursive struggles about defining home care for older people in Sweden
  • Just Like Any Other Family? Everyday Life Experiences of Mothers of Adults with Severe Mental Illness in Sweden

    2020. Katarina Piuva, Helene Brodin. Community mental health journal 56 (6), 1023-1032


    This study explores experiences of mothers in Sweden who care for their adult children suffering from severe mental illness. Using 15 interviews with mothers from 40 to 80 years old, the article examines how predominant professional knowledge and sanism constructs the mothers and their children as deviant and what counterstrategies the mothers develop as a response to these experiences of discrimination. The findings show that the mothers’ experiences are characterized by endless confrontations with negative attitudes and comments that have forced them to go through painful and prolonged processes of self-accusations for not having given enough love, care, support and help in different stages of their children's life. But the mothers’ experiences also reveal important aspects of changes over the life span. As the mothers are ageing, the relationship between them and their children becomes more reciprocal and the ill child may even take the role as family carer.

    Read more about Just Like Any Other Family? Everyday Life Experiences of Mothers of Adults with Severe Mental Illness in Sweden

Show all publications by Helene Brodin at Stockholm University