Stockholm university

Jan HelmdagResearcher

About me

I am a researcher at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) and hold a PhD in political science. 

I am the project and data manager of the Social Policy Indicators (SPIN) database, led by Prof Kenneth Nelson (University of Oxford). In SPIN, we collect institutional data on a large variety of indicators on income taxes and social policies, e.g., unemployment, sickness, accident, pensions, social assistance, parental leave, student support, and housing benefits. Besides data gathering and research, one of my central tasks within SPIN is to ensure synchronization with the research infrastructure on Democracy, Environment, Migration, Social Policy, Conflict, and Representation (DEMSCORE).

Since the beginning of 2024, I am leading the project “The dualization of social rights in Sweden and beyond: How social policy design can maintain or mitigate income inequality”, which is funded by FORTE with SEK 3.5 million. In this project, I investigate how dualization within employment is perpetuated by social policy arrangements, specifiallcy by looking at compensation levels of employment-related benefits in Sweden (1960–2023) and an additional 17 affluent countries (1990–2023). One of the main outputs of the project will be the Benefit Dualization Index (BDI), which measures the gap in social rights between labor market insiders and outsiders and will be available in a newly formed SPIN module.

My CV can be downloaded here.


Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • The Politics of Unemployment Benefit Reforms

    2022. Jan Helmdag, Kati Kuitto. Parties, Institutions and Preferences, 261-297


    The quantitative-empirical research on the political economy of welfare state reforms has offered multiple explanations on how governments impact social policy reforms. The emergence of the ‘dependent variable problem’ and the ‘independent variable problem’, however, clearly calls into question some of the previous findings. In this chapter, we offer an analysis that takes both issues into account, and we show that the analytical framework of the agenda-setting power model (ASPM) developed by Jahn (2010, 2011, 2016b) is suitable for analyzing dynamics of social policy reforms. Our analysis of changes in unemployment benefit replacement rates and generosity in 21 OECD countries from 1971 to 2010 shows that we can observe a clear classical partisanship-relationship involving instances of both leftist expansion and rightist retrenchment. Moreover, we show that political and institutional veto players have an intervening effect on unemployment benefit reforms and that both left and right governments are constrained in their agendas once veto players gain relevance in the political bargaining process.

    Read more about The Politics of Unemployment Benefit Reforms
  • Extending working lives: How policies shape retirement and labour market participation of older workers

    2021. Kai Kuitto, Jan Helmdag. Social Policy & Administration 55, 423-439


    This study investigates how policies shape retirement and labour market participation of older workers and thus help extending working lives. It employs a time‐series–cross‐section analysis of the effects of macro‐level institutional pull, push and retention factors on effective retirement age and employment rate of older workers in 15 OECD countries from 1992 to 2010. The comparative approach reveals that public pension system rules that have been geared towards postponing retirement in many countries in past decades, indeed, are significant determinants of lengthening working lives. In particular, statutory retirement age and financial disincentives for early retirement proof important. Institutional effects differ by gender, though. Furthermore, the results point to the importance of social policies supporting labour market participation throughout the life‐course: social investment in human capital and public services clearly supports extending working lives.

    Read more about Extending working lives
  • Interdependent policy learning: Contextual diffusion of active labour marketpolicies

    2018. Jan Helmdag, Kati Kuitto. Learning in Public Policy, 317-346


    This chapter analyses in which ways diffusion based on interdependent policy learning explains expenditure on active labour market policies (ALMP) in the OECD countries. By applying error correction models using multiplicative spatial Prais-Winsten regressions for analyzing the diffusion of ALMPs in 22 OECD countries from 1991–2013, we find evidence of governments adapting labour market policy strategies that have proven successful, that is, perform well in increasing labour market participation in other countries. However, interdependent learning is conditional on the institutional framework: policy-makers rather learn from the experience of other countries in the same welfare regime. Even more importantly, the results point to the importance of the European Employment Strategy (EES) as an international coordination framework facilitating policy learning.

    Read more about Interdependent policy learning

Show all publications by Jan Helmdag at Stockholm University