1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Welfare States and Institutional Complementarity: From North to South (Draft)



The rolling back of welfare benefits in mature economies in the North on one side, and the construction of genuine forms of social security in emerging economies in the South on the other. This looks like a paradox, difficult to explain by "one size fits all" type theorizing. Nevertheless, it can be overcome by combining a structural definition of welfare systems along a comparative historical analysis of their emergence. Since social protection is at the intersection of three spheres- domestic, economic and political--it is embedded into a significant diversity of configurations across societies and epochs. Their viability is up to the coherence of the architectures organizing these spheres. Revisiting their emergence in the North delivers a common and general result: any welfare system has also to be compatible, or still better complementary, with labor market institutions, the financing by tax or/and social contributions and finally with the national production and innovation system. Examples of both successes and failures are given when synthesizing previous research on Nordic countries, continental Europe and Latin America, including Brazil and China.

Robert Boyer is an Economist at the Institut des Ameriques, Paris.