ZiF Research Group
Understanding Southern Welfare
Ideational and historical foundations of social policies in Brazil, India, China and South Africa
March - July 2018
Convenors: Ulrike Davy (Bielefeld, GER), Lutz Leisering (Bielefeld, GER)
The twentieth century was a century of expanding social policy and the rise of the 'welfare state'.During that century, Western nation states turned into 'democratic welfare capitalism' (T.H. Marshall), with social expenditures reaching 20-35% of GDP, and coverage of the population by social security provisions verging towards 100%. In the twenty-first century, the countries of the global South play an increasingly important role in terms of population growth, their share in the global economy, and potential or real global political power. Which route have Southern countries been taking regarding the 'social' side of society?
Since the 1990s, economic liberalization and dramatic growth rates in some Southern countries have been at the forefront of public debates. But it has often gone unnoticed that social policies have been expanding in the global South at the same time. Research on social policy in the global South still is at an early stage. While there is a plethora of reports and studies on the implementation and the outcomes of welfare programmes, the Research Group seeks to advance this field of research by investigating in-depth the ideational and historical foundations of social policies, which are neglected in the dominant approaches from welfare economics and political economy. The Research Group aims at 'understanding' Southern welfare, inquiring into the perceptions, beliefs and ideas of domestic actors, rather than imposing preconceived categories.
The Group focuses on Brazil, India, China and South Africa since the 1940s (for Brazil since the 1930s). These countries have been among the pioneers in the recent expansion of welfare policies, which started in the 1990s. The four countries accentuate the relationship between social policy and economic growth.
The Fellows of the Research Group come from the countries under investigation or have roots in them. The Fellows represent a variety of disciplines, including law, sociology, social policy research, global and comparative history and development economics.
While family and kin, subsistence production and informal economic activity continue to be important avenues of welfare production in the South, the Research Group focuses on the growing area of state-led welfare production. Some Fellows look into social rights and values, investigating the range of ideas of the social that crystallize in processes of constitution-making, constitutions, adjudication and major statutory law. Other Fellows focus on social security, including social insurance, social assistance, child benefit and health services.