1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Social Policy in a Development Context

  • Project from: 2000 to 2005


Social Policy in a Development Context is the overarching framework of a wide-ranging inquiry into social policy that is developmental, democratic and socially inclusive. This project was initiated in 2000 with a conference held in Tammsvik, Sweden (see "Events" on the right) and is set to go on until 2005. Following the conference, the research was organized into four thematic comparative projects and five region-centred comparative projects. These are being pursued as separate but interrelated projects, as explained below. Background papers being commissioned under the Social Policy in a Development Context project provide overarching conceptual coherence to the group of projects.
    The thematic comparative research includes the following four projects:

    • Macroeconomics and Social Policy
    • Democratization and Social Policy
    • Commercialization of Health Care: Global and Local Dynamics and Policy Responses
    • Gender and Social Policy
    The region-centred comparative research is focusing on late industrializing countries in the following five projects:

    • Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Transforming the Developmental Welfare State in East Asia
    • Social Policy in Late Industrializers: A Comparative Study Latin America
    • Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Social Policy and Development Outcomes in the Middle East and North Africa
    • Social Policy in Late Industrializers: The Nordic Experience
    • Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Sub-Saharan Africa and the Challenge of Social Policy
    In order to tackle the research questions from a broad perspective, these nine projects bring together researchers from a wide range of disciplines, covering many fields of expertise. This feeds into an integrated analysis positioning social policies in their political, economic and social contexts. This context sensitivity applies to the links between macroeconomic performance and the fundamental goal of raising human well-being.

    The political contexts of social policies involve continuous interactions between citizens, interest groups and politicians, as well as redistribution of economic resources. This implies that they can alter the balance of power between social forces in society. In order to grasp these interactions and changes, an institutional approach is being used, which can cut across such macro concepts as the state, market and society.

    A brief description of the projects follows.

    Macroeconomics and Social Policy
    The first theme, addressed in a project externally co-ordinated by Giovanni Andrea Cornia, focuses on pro-poor macroeconomics. This project first seeks to identify policies that reduce volatility and the risk of macroeconomic shocks, including measures like controlling and harnessing capital inflows, pro-poor exchange rate regimes and a global insurance mechanism. The second aim of the project is to explore policy options available to countries once they have been hit by an economic shock. This will be achieved by examining macroeconomics which pursue stabilization in ways that are protective of growth and the poor. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right. (In-house liaison by Cecilia Ugaz.)

    Democratization and Social Policy
    This project, co-ordinated by Yusuf Bangura, will explore the interplay between democracy and social policy from a comparative perspective. This project will focus in particular on the role of democratic forces in the development of social policy, while simultaneously paying attention to the impact of social policies on democratization.

    Commercialization of Health Care: Global and Local Dynamics and Policy Responses
    The project under this theme, externally co-ordinated by Maureen Mackintosh and Meri Koivusalo, explores the impact of globalization on social policy provision. The project considers the impact of globalization and commercialization on the capacity and scope of health care systems to reverse processes of impoverishment and exclusion by redistribution and inclusion. (In-house liaison by Shahra Razavi.)

    Gender and Social Policy
    Under this theme, the project co-ordinated by Shahra Razavi explores some of the key aspects of the gender/policy nexus, with a focus on developing countries. Research is structured in three interrelated parts. The first part explores the gender and social policy nexus through broad-based historical and comparative country studies, assessing the usefulness of different approaches for understanding the evolution of social policy arrangements. The second part focuses on the intersections between paid work, unpaid care and entitlements to social provision through the prism of public finance and fiscal policy. The third part looks more specifically at the health and education sectors, and the gender-differentiated impacts of recent reforms in those sectors. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.

    Social Policy in Late Industrializers
    A policy framework that is both developmental and socially inclusive is not merely a theoretical possibility—it has been accomplished, with varying degrees of success, historically. This is the focus of the region-centred comparative research, which is delving into historical trajectories of development and "late development" in the five projects below. In addition, there are plans to extend research to a sixth region focusing on the social crisis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In particular, this would examine the role of social policy and the social impact of the recent transition towards market economies. Huck-ju Kwon is responsible for the overall co-ordination of the region-centred projects.
      Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Transforming the Developmental Welfare State in East Asia
      This project, co-ordinated by Huck-ju Kwon, focuses on institutions of social policy in East Asia. In this region, as in many other parts of the world, social policy has been developmental in the sense that it has been used as an instrument for economic development. This project explores the politics of social policy and the dynamics of social policy institutions. Focusing on the move from authoritarianism towards democratization and the social policy responses to the Asian economic crisis of 1997–1998, it examines whether these changes have generated a shift towards a more inclusive social agenda. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.

      Social Policy in Late Industrializers: A Comparative Study of Latin America
      This project, externally co-ordinated by Manuel Riesco, focuses on the politics of social policy in Latin America. This region presents a wide range of stages of development, both between and within countries, with correspondingly diverse social policies and institutions. Nevertheless, Latin American welfare institutions were generally developed in a context of traditional agrarian social relations, but were also influenced by neoliberal reforms promoting privatization, liberalization and deregulation. The latter were first implemented by authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, but were continued by transitional and democratic regimes. This project examines whether the resulting welfare systems have been democratic and socially inclusive, as well as whether the present economic and social protection model provides an answer to current economic instabilities. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.

      Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Social Policy and Development Outcomes in the Middle East and North Africa
      This project, externally co-ordinated by Massoud Karshenas and Valentine Moghadam, focuses on the political economy of social policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In this region, social policies have often been seen as handouts from the state rather than entitlements that accrue to tax-paying and gainfully employed citizens. Furthermore, the beneficiaries have tended to be groups with access to, and influential in the preservation of, the power of authoritarian states. This project examines the political background of such a paradigm as social policy. In particular, it asks to what extent social policy has played a role in nation-building efforts, and mobilization of political support for the regime in power. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.
        Social Policy in Late Industrializers: The Nordic Experience
        This project, externally co-ordinated by Joakim Palme and Olli Kangas, examines social policy in the Nordic countries. By and large, the welfare states in the Nordic region have been of an inclusive nature, based on productivism, universal social investment and democratic governance. This project examines the developmental credentials of the Nordic welfare states, as well as the historical role played by universal social policies to contribute to common identities and nation building. Further, it explores the new challenges to the welfare state posed by an ageing population and declining fertility rates in times of globalization. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.

        Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Sub-Saharan Africa and the Challenge of Social Policy
        This project, externally co-ordinated by Jimi Olalekan Adesina, focuses on the role of social policy in sub-Saharan African (SSA) development. While social development outcomes have been uneven across and within SSA countries, the escalation in poverty, anaemic growth rates, persistence in the structural weaknesses of these economies, and reversal in social development indicators, raise major challenges for them. By exploring this developmental crisis, the project elaborates upon the social, political and economic forces that have promoted as well as impeded social policy adoption. Specifically, it explores social policies aimed at education, health and sanitation, and social security. More information about this project can be found under the link "Related Information - Projects", on the right.