Social protection is crucial for human development. However, the great majority of the global population is not or only partly covered by social protection (ILO 2014: xxi). In developing countries, in particular, it is often the very poorest and most vulnerable in a society who do not receive essential social benefits (Holliday 2000). Although the people’s need for social protection in developing countries is obvious, countries perform very differently in this respect. In some countries the reach of social protection is very limited despite high needs, while others have comprehensive social protection systems with both contributory and non-contributory components (Devereux et al. 2015). Accordingly, whereas some countries are successfully tackling poverty and inequality through a broad provision of social protection, others continue to prioritize the rights and needs of small elites over those of the broad mass of the population. This is highly problematic given that inclusive social protection is assumed to be a key factor for national productivity, global economic growth and domestic stability (Rudra 2015), and also considering that access to social protection is a human right.
How can these vast differences in the provision of social protection be explained? Elucidating the policy mix, coverage and generosity of contemporary social protection requires a deep understanding of its historical roots and specific trajectories. As most of the research continues to focus on the OECD world, however, little is known about the origins, characteristics and outcomes of social protection beyond the OECD. The narrative of welfare state emergence in rich democracies with its emphasis on domestic factors, such as industrialization and urbanization, provides only limited insight into the emergence and structure of social protection systems in other regions of the world. Several studies analyzing social protection in the Global South have emphasized that social protection has been strongly shaped by external influences and international actors over the course of the last 120 years (e.g. Gough et al. 2004; Deacon 2007; Niño‐Zarazúa et al. 2012; Midgley and Piachaud 2011; Brooks 2015; Rudra, 2015).
In order to systematically analyze alternative routes to early and contemporary social protection in low- and middle-income countries, the focus of this workshop will hence be on three of the most important external influences in the building of social protection systems in the Global South, namely colonial ties, the Cold War, as well as international donors and organizations.
In sum, this workshop brings together scholars from different disciplines with expertise in different policy areas and/or regions in order to create a larger picture of the role of external influences in the building of social protection systems in the Global South in the last 120 years. The aim is to identify alternatives routes to welfare regime building and, in consequence, to explain the differences in the policy mix, coverage, and generosity of early and contemporary social protection provision beyond the OECD.