News

Here you can find the latest updates on the Collaborative Research Centre "Global Dynamics of Social Policy": summaries of current research results, references to our latest publications, outcomes of events and more news from the projects and their staff members.


The tasks include researching education policies concerning the inclusion of marginalised groups. The working time is 30 hours per month.

The research project “The Global Development of Coverage and Generosity in Public Education” which is part of the funded Collaborative Research Centre "Global Dynamics of Social Policy" (SFB 1342) is searching for a student assistant (30h per month).

The position is to start in January of 2023, for at least six months.

The main task is to support the data collection within the quantitative part of the project. The tasks include researching education policies and constitutions from countries all around the globe for the inclusion of marginalized groups in formal education.

Interest in, or even previous knowledge of, educational sociology or policy and globalization is desirable, but not a condition. The same applies to knowledge of qualitative methods. Knowledge of languages such as French or Spanish is also desirable, a must is proficient writing skills in English.

We offer an insight into an interesting field of work and a friendly team. Salary is based on the usual rates for student assistants at the University of Bremen.

Your application should include a short curriculum vitae and your study focus or interests. A current excerpt of the transcripts of records should also be enclosed.

The closing date for applications is 26.10.2022. Applications should be made via e-mail, to be sent to

Fabian Besche-Truthe, fbesche@uni-bremen.de
Helen Seitzer, seitzer@uni-bremen.de


Contact:
Dr. Fabian Besche-Truthe
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57066
E-Mail: fbesche@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Helen Seitzer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57065
E-Mail: seitzer@uni-bremen.de

Dr. John Berten
Dr. John Berten
John is a postdoc at Bielefeld University and investigates, what influence indicators and projections of the future have on the work of international organisers. In project B12 he is examining the ILO as an actor in the global Covid-19 crisis management.

First of all, I have to ask you how to pronounce your first name?

Since I work a lot with international colleagues, I now pronounce it English (i.e. dʒɒn), even though my family has always pronounced my first name Swedish (jᴐn) - since my mother is from Sweden.

Excellent, that's sorted then. You are a postdoc at the University of Bielefeld and joined the CRC 1342 this year. Could you please briefly describe your academic career?

I studied in Bielefeld, Bachelor in Social Sciences and Master in Sociology. During this period, I was a student assistant in a project led by Lutz Leisering, which dealt with the expansion of basic social protection systems in the Global South. This work sparked my interest in social policy and social policy research, and I also wrote my Master's thesis in the context of this project. Afterwards, I went to Bremen and wrote my PhD thesis as a fellow at the BIGSSS. My first supervisor was Martin Nonhoff, and my second supervisor was Lutz Leisering. I combined the final period of my PhD programme with a position in Bielefeld and then went to Tübingen as a postdoc to work with Martin Seeleib-Kaiser in his working group on Comparative Public Policy. And now I'm back in Bielefeld, working with Alexandra Kaasch.

I would be interested to know more about your PhD dissertation: What was your research about?

On the influence of indicators and statistics in global social policy. I was already very interested in this topic during my work as a student assistant in the Bielefeld project: Back then, it became clear what influence the fact that an individual poverty measure was available had on the expansion of basic social protection: "One Dollar a Day". In my Master's thesis, I showed that this measure was one of the epistemic or knowledge-related conditions that made basic social protection policies so popular. And I elaborated on that in my doctoral thesis and asked what other knowledge preconditions global social policies are based on: I wrote a historical thesis on the role of international organisations in this context, with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Bank as case studies. So I looked at how these two IOs have constituted global social policy as an object of knowledge using numbers, indicators and statistics.

Can you give an example?

One aspect was the question of how different models of social security are made internationally comparable. That is not self-evident. There are different models of social security all over the world, and the ILO made these models comparable with each other in its first statistical survey. In this way, the ILO created new categories and put things, which were previously considered incomparable, into new relationships. In my dissertation I looked at how these comparisons have changed over time.

How do you feel about the fact that we try to measure the whole world with the same metrics? That has its advantages and disadvantages ...

Yes, it has advantages and disadvantages and that is also a scientific interest, also here at the CRC. I think it is important to approach such investigations or comparisons and their results with a reflective mind and to be aware of the effects that such seemingly innocent epistemic instruments have. Scientific surveys and comparisons are one thing, but it has another implication when we look at the work of international organisations: Some IOs not only produce comparisons, but they create direct political effects through, for example, performance benchmarks.

The OECD's PISA assessment studies immediately come to mind ...

That's a good example, yes.

In the CRC project B12, you are examining the crisis management of international organisations during the Corona pandemic. What is your role in the project?

We are looking at what ideas and proposals IOs developed in the context of this crisis management. This relates both to Covid-19 containment measures directly and to policy responses to the socio-economic impacts the pandemic had. I am focusing on the ILO, which I have worked on in the past. My special interest, which goes beyond the actual project context, is the importance of different modes of envisioning the future. I look at crisis narratives, for example.

You've been working on the topic of crises for quite some time: in your most recent paper, you analyse how international organisations react to technological change and global climate change.

Exactly. The paper emerged from a project on "anticipatory global governance" that I started with Matthias Kranke from the University of Kassel - it's about the question of how international organisations map futures and what effect that has on their policy-making. A series of workshops has so far resulted in a Special Issue in Global Society, in which this paper has also been published. Further publications are already in preparation.

My interest was motivated by the fact that current social policy discourses are often linked to the question of the future. In the case of climate change, it is about how climate change can be limited and how one can react to its effects. But discourses on digitalisation and automation of work are also about the future. I looked at how the different ways of describing the future of labour automation and the future of climate change translate into social policy proposals from international organisations.

I have noticed two differences in the way the future affects the IOs’ policy-making, which can be summarised by the terms "preparation" and "precaution". The crucial point here is: how certain are international organisations that a particular projection of the future will actually materialise, and this is related to the way in which the future is made "knowable". In the case of climate change, there are underlying, mostly quantitative, simulations and projections through which international organisations assume with a high degree of certainty that the world will change in such and such a way. This certainty is reflected in the way IOs can discursively underpin their social policy proposals: According to this, "preparation" is necessary - we have to prepare ourselves. Digitalisation and automation discourses are based more on narrative expert judgements, so the forecasts of the future are more controversial - but we should take action nonetheless: the keyword is "precaution". Of course, this has implications for the urgency with which organisations can advertise their proposals, for example.

Let's talk briefly about your personal future: What are your plans for the time after the 2nd funding phase of the SFB?

I want to stay in science, so I'm working on my habilitation here in Bielefeld.

I wish you every success for that. Thank you very much for the interview!


Contact:
Dr. John Berten
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Faculty of Sociology
Universitätsstraße 24
33615 Bielefeld
Phone: +49 521 106-4457
E-Mail: john.berten@uni-bielefeld.de

Anh Tran
Anh Tran
Before joining the CRC, Anh was working in international projects on social protection. As a PhD student in project A06, she is now investigating child benefits and their effect on social inclusion.

Dear Anh, what have you been doing before the CRC?

I moved here from London where I was working for the research consultancy Development Pathways. I mostly worked on issues related to inclusion and exclusion in social protection.

Who did you address with your results?

The agency is internationally oriented and most of the projects were commissioned by the UN and iNGOs: I worked with actors in the Global South, including providing advisory support to Government agencies and conducting research with local communities. I contributed to projects in several countries across East Africa and Asia.

Was that you first job after university?

Yes, I was working for Development Pathways for about five and a half years. Before that I was doing my master’s degree in Maastricht in public policy and human development. I was quite lucky to find a research-oriented role in the field of social protection, as this was the focus of my master's programme. I was specialising in social protection, policy design and financing.

What did you write your Master's thesis about?

I wrote about inequality of educational opportunities in Vietnam. I was inspired by having travelled to Vietnam and with my family being from there, and knowing how the education system is increasingly becoming more privatized or depending more on your private contributions to accessing education. That was what made me interested in looking closer at the drivers of these inequalities.

What have you found is driving this privatization trend and these inequalities in education?

While economic growth has led to reductions in overall poverty levels and increases in basic educational attainment, the market economy has become more pivotal in the provision of education in Vietnam.  Interestingly, I did not find a significant difference between educational opportunities – in terms of quality of education and educational achievements - of students enrolled in public or private education. However, I did find that having educational and cultural resources at home played a role. Families’ welfare and their ability to access resources that stimulate their child’s school engagement therefore affected achievements at school. Moreover, students from rural highland areas, where more ethnic minorities reside, experienced more disadvantages. Other studies also found an increasing number of children in urban areas who are attending private classes or tutoring which leads to higher disparities between population groups.

Your background is social protection and education policy. How big is the shift for you now working for the CRC’s project A06, focusing on family policy?

The shift is not too big, actually. While education policy was the topic of my master’s thesis, its focus was mostly on equity and social exclusion. At Development Pathways, I focused on similar challenges of social exclusion but looked at how these can be addressed through social security. I looked at the potential for addressing income security across the entire life cycle - from childhood through to old age, including challenges of persons with disabilities. Within project A06 I will focus mostly on collecting data and assessing coverage and generosity of child benefits.

Child benefits are common in OECD countries/the Global North – how about the Global South?

Across the Global South there is quite a substantial number of countries that have some kind of child benefit, but they take a lot of different shapes and sizes. For example in some countries in Africa and Asia, there are social insurance provisions for families but with limited coverage of those in certain sectors of the formal labour market. An increasing number of countries are implementing - also influenced by global agenda setting - social cash transfers which support families, although they are often targeted at the entire household and determine eligibility based on poverty or vulnerability status. They were predominantly intended as poverty relief rather than an individual child benefit as we find it in most countries across the Global North.

Would you then exclude those countries from your exploration? I guess you would need to be very specific in defining what child benefits have to look like in order to keep the data comparable …

Well, that indeed is still the question. My predecessor Simone Tonelli has already looked at the historical legacies of child benefits and at the legislation. And he also looked at including quite a number of cash transfer programmes as well. For my thesis, I'm actually quite interested in looking at how these types of programmes have come about and what the influences of trans-national institutions on domestic policy-making had been. And from a gender perspective, I would like to look at how effective these programmes have been in terms of supporting families, supporting women, addressing the cost of childcare and if they are really effective in addressing social inclusion or if they are based on the traditional role of women as mothers and care-givers, which may pose barriers to their participation in work and the labour market.

How are you going about to collect the data? Can you use global databases via the internet or do you also have to travel and look at specific cases as well?

I am still at the stage of figuring that out. There is quite a lot to build on what my team has fed into WeSIS and there are datasets out there that try to measure indices of women's empowerment and the coverage and generosity of child benefits. But beyond the macro level, for my thesis I would like to use a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative methods with qualitative case studies. That would allow me to delve a bit deeper also into intersectionalities of social inclusion and exclusion, i.e. whether in-/exclusion has to do with gender as well as your social position in society, income, ethnicity, caste or disability, for example.

That sounds pretty exciting!

May be a bit ambitious and I am sure I will have to narrow it down, but yes, I am excited.

Have you got any plans for the time after your PhD already?

The role that I had been in before was about implementing research projects, with a mix of advising and supporting governments and policy-making. I then made the move from consulting to the CRC because I was always drawn towards the research aspects of my work. And this is what I am focused on right now. In general, I am interested in how research intersects with policy-making. I am not yet sure in what capacity I would like to move forward but I am sure I will get an idea of that over the course of the PhD.


Contact:
Anh Tran
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57089
E-Mail: atran@uni-bremen.de

Fabienne Müller
Fabienne Müller
After a few years in diplomacy, Fabienne has returned to university. She is doing a PhD in history, researching US trade and social policy since 1970.

Dear Fabienne, you have been a member of CRC 1342 for two months now - what did you do before that?

The last few years I was in Warsaw, where I worked at the German Embassy, in the area of culture and public relations. I prepared programmes for cultural events, drafted letters and looked after delegations. It was a leap from university into practice.

What had you studied before?

I had studied political science, administrative sciences and Spanish philology at the University of Potsdam - Bachelor and Master. Then I received a scholarship for another Master's programme.

Where and what did you study then?

European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe in Warsaw. The main campus of the university is in Bruges, but since the 1990s there is a campus in Natolin, a district of Warsaw.

What languages were the courses in?

English and French. But I also wanted to learn Polish, because I had already started a language course in Potsdam - that was another reason to go to Warsaw.

How long did you live there in total?

The Master's lasted one year, and after that I was at the embassy for five years. Until June of this year.

When did you decide to go back to university and do a PhD?

That was always my wish, because I liked my studies and the theoretical work so much. Directly after graduating, no suitable opportunity arose, so I applied for other positions, also to get an insight into diplomacy and the work and structures of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the long run, however, I always wanted to return to academia and go more in-depth in terms of subject matter. Working at the embassy requires you to quickly familiarise with changing topics. That was an important experience, but I wanted to work on a topic in depth again.

You studied political science, but now you're doing a PhD in history. How did that come about?

I was always interested in subjects adjacent to political science. During my Bachelor's degree, I took courses in history and the history of political ideas as a specialisation, just as I did in my Master's degree in Potsdam. And at the College of Europe, European history was my specialisation.

How did you hear about the position at the CRC?

I have a friend who is doing her PhD at the University of Bremen and she told me about the CRC: "Take a look, the CRC brings together political science and history, that would be a good fit for you." I then clicked through the website and read about the first phase to see where I could tie in and then came across the job advertisement for the project on social policy and protectionism and applied.

You've only been in Bremen since July - have you pinpointed your responsibilities in the project yet?

We have already met a few times in the team and decided which of us will study which country and which time periods. I will be taking care of the USA, specifically the time period from 1970 to the present. From a historian's perspective, that's quite a long period. That's why I'm currently busy reading up on it. I am also reading about the period before that, which my colleague Fritz is in charge of, since the events and decisions in the decades before that obviously provide the basis for social policy in the period from 1970 onwards.

You share your office with Fritz Kusch and Fernando Vinueza, who are also PhD students at the CRC and work on related topics: Have you set up something like a reading circle or book club?

We don't read together, but we have built up a steadily growing library in our office, which we are currently working through. If we notice something that fits in with each other's topics, we bring it to each other's attention.

Do you already have plans for your dissertation?

Yes, I would like to work on the history of ideas, as that fits in with my studies. I am currently trying to work out the major mechanisms in US social policy since the 1970s. If the literature and sources allow, I would like to examine exactly what has significantly influenced US pension policy since the 1990s - given the upheavals in the history of ideas.

Do you want to do a cumulative PhD or write a monograph?

I think I will choose the monograph format. We all work that way in the team, and it is still the most common format in the field of historical studies.

What are your plans for the future: do you want to stay in academia or go back to practice?

The next three and a half years are a very long period of time, which is why I cannot yet see what will come after that. From today's point of view, I would be very happy if I got the opportunity to continue working in science.


Contact:
Fabienne Müller
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft / FB 08
Universitäts-Boulevard 13
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58628
E-Mail: famuelle@uni-bremen.de

The team works on occupational injury, unemployment and pension policies and needs support in researching/processing data and literature. The working time is 8 to 10 hours per week.

The Project A02 Global Dynamics of Coverage and Generosity in Work-Injury Compensation, Unemployment and Old-Age Pensions at the CRC 1342 is looking for a

student assistant (f/m/d)

working 8 to 10 hours per week. Start date: As soon as possible. The position initially runs until the end of 2022, but can be prolonged incrementally by mutual agreement until the end of the year 2024. Breaks of up to three months for, e.g., internships are possible, but need to be communicated in advance.

Project A02 is part of the Collaborative Research Centre 1342 "Global Dynamics of Social Policy" which is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG).

The project examines the development of social policy since 1880 across all countries of the globe. In particular, the research assistant’s work would focus on coverage and generosity of work-injury and unemployment policies. There are many different tasks, so the research assistant could have some choice over what they prefer to do.

Potential Tasks

  • Literature reviews and reference management in the area of welfare state research
  • Contributing to data collection, data processing and data analysis
    • Finding data sources using various internet-based research methods
    • Coding written laws and secondary sources into a comparative database
    • Developing a codebook and strategy for comparative analysis and data sharing publicly
    • Learning and supporting statistical analysis
  • Working in English primarily, with some German

Requirements

  • Ongoing studies in Political Science, Sociology or similar
  • Interest in at least one of the following areas: comparative welfare studies, social policy, legal history or work-injury and unemployment law
  • Basic knowledge of qualitative or quantitative methods (the latter preferably with R or Stata)
  • Very good English skills
  • Ability to use or willingness to learn Zotero reference management software
  • Advanced skills in MS Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel)
  • Data coding skills are welcome, but not necessary


We offer

  • Insights into a fascinating field of work and research
  • The opportunity to work in a friendly, interdisciplinary team
  • An hourly wage in accordance with the usual rates at the University of Bremen
  • The possibility to write a BA/MA thesis on a topic related to the project


Please send your short application (including letter of motivation, curriculum vitae, transcripts of records and, if applicable, degree certificates) as one PDF file to Nate Breznau (
nbreznau@uni-bremen.de). Feel free to email with any questions. We will fill the position as soon as we find a good candidate.


Contact:
Dr. Nate Breznau
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
E-Mail: nbreznau@uni-bremen.de

Hannes Salzmann
Hannes Salzmann
Hannes is researching party positions and their implications for social policy in the information management project. In his doctoral thesis, he wants to develop a new approach based on quantitative text analysis and natural language processing.

Dear Hannes, what did you do before the CRC, there is not too much about you on the internet.

If you google me, you find "Hannes Salzmann, sand in the gearbox of the capital": Me as a musician at the 1st of May demonstration in Braunschweig. I earned money with music - guitar and singing - as a part-time job. Professionally, I studied in Göttingen. In fact, I started studying information systems technology in Braunschweig. But in the first semester I realised that engineering maths wasn't for me, so I moved to Göttingen to study political science and economics. I then did a Master's degree in political science, focusing on democracy and political party research and on quantitative methods, including supervised and unsupervised machine learning, text as data and quantitative text analysis.

That fits in very well with what is required here at the CRC.

Yes, when I saw the job advertisement, I thought: Wow, that fits like a glove! I was lucky enough to actually get the job. Especially since I had only moved to Bremen with my partner a year ago.

What made you decide to move to Bremen without a job?

My partner and I had studied in different cities. During the pandemic we thought we could study from anywhere. We wanted to go to the north, Hamburg was too big for us - hence: Bremen. I wrote my Master's thesis here and finished in January.

January 2022? That was perfect timing with regard to the position in the CRC.

That was outrageous luck. Especially since I realised during my Master's thesis that I really enjoy research.

What did you examine in your Master's thesis?

Lobbyism. Very exciting, but still under-researched in Germany because the data availability is very poor compared to the USA, for example. In 2013 there was a study at the European level by Heike Klüver. She looked at which factors are decisive for the success of lobbying: how much money does an association have, how many people can it mobilise and how much information does it give to politicians? Klüver compared draft legislation and finalised texts and analysed all the statements of lobbying associations. She used the Wordfish algorithm to do this. The algorithm ranks the texts on a scale - for example, when it comes to the expansion of wind power, between the extreme positions a) "As much wind power as technically possible" and b) "No more wind power at all".  This gives us, on the basis of the text documents, a spatial distance between actors.

Klüver then assumed that actors who are on the same side of the scale have entered into a lobbying coalition. Then she looked: Which coalition wins? In which direction did the text of the law move in relation to the original draft? Then she calculated a multiple regression with the factors financial resources of the lobby groups, voter support and information flow. Klüver did this for 56 legislative processes. She was able to prove a statistically significant positive correlation between all three variables and the success of lobbying efforts. Money has the highest influence and voter support the lowest, but the differences are minimal.

In my Master's thesis, I wanted to transfer Klüver's approach to Germany. I collected my own data set on energy policy with about 1500 documents. This was extremely time-consuming because in Germany there is no central place for collecting comments on draft legislation and there is also no obligation to publish them.

When I calculated my regression, I found that I could explain 5 percent of the variance between the draft law and the final text of the law - so it wasn't worth it at all in terms of my research interest! I was only able to show that obviously the data basis in Germany is insufficient to carry out such a lobbying analysis.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Yes, I would have extended my analysis system to include the "degree of proximity" as a variable: Those who merely submit a written opinion are quite far away from the decision-making bodies, but those who meet the federal minister in person are likely to have far-reaching influence. I have researched cases where lobbyists even sat on committees - there, too, one can assume a great deal of influence.

Apart from that, I would narrow down the topic more: Energy policy as a whole was too broad, and the text of the law, with over 300 pages, too extensive. As a result, some of the comments referred to sections of the law that had relatively little to do with each other. I should have done topic modelling beforehand to achieve a stronger focus.

However, it was nice that the automated analysis method allowed me to process text data in a quantity that would never have been possible manually.

In your current work at the CRC, you are following up on these experiences and methods: What exactly are you up to?

I'm now working in the information management project: my first task will be to collect and analyse party programmes. We are trying to determine party positions worldwide and measure their impact on social policy. Traditional ways to determine party positions are to interview experts and to analyse party programmes. But this has disadvantages: Experts are not always available for all parties. And party programmes are not objective data, but strategic documents: their purpose is to present the party to the public in a desired way, and they do not always serve to realistically represent a party's goals. Moreover, a party's position can change in the course of a legislative period.

Therefore, I would like to develop a new approach to measuring party positions. My first idea was about policy output. This has the weakness that you can only apply it to governing parties ...

... basically only to parties that are in government alone ...

Correct! You would have to filter out all other factors, coalition partners, veto players, the Bundesrat, etc. That is difficult.

But there is an archive in Germany with all parliamentary debates, including the names and party affiliations of the speakers. I would like to try to automatically extract ideological positions from parliamentary speeches and derive party positions from them. To do this, I would like to delve a little deeper into quantitative text analysis and natural language processing.

What time period are you looking at?

Which period I'm looking at also depends on the type of algorithm I'm going to use. There are several to choose from. I'm glad that we have two computer scientists in the INF project with whom I can talk about such things. Once I know what is technically possible, I can better estimate how many documents I can analyse and how much pre- and post-processing will be necessary.

Will you limit your analysis to one area of social policy?

I think I will not only look at social policy speeches, but also consider other areas. In determining the party position, I would like to move away from the classic division into left and right - I have in mind a double scale with a libertarian vs. authoritarian and a transverse free-market vs. social justice dimension. My work in the CRC could possibly also benefit from such a classification, as a more precise determination of the parties' position could also provide better insight into the corresponding influence on social policy. In this way, I hope to be able to create further positive synergy effects between my dissertation and my project work.


Contact:
Hannes Salzmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57061
E-Mail: h.salzmann@uni-bremen.de

Mai Mahmoud
Mai Mahmoud
Before her Master's in International Relations, Mai has worked for Egyptian NGOs focusing on social policy and human rights. For her PhD, she now wants to study the influence of International Organisations on health policies of countries in Northern Afric

You did your Bachelor Degree at the British University of Egypt. Why did you choose this university back then?

I had a couple of options, but the British University was the most research oriented and its cohorts of students were smaller. Additionally, it offered me the opportunity to earn a certificate with Loughborough University. The programme tried to accommodate both the Egyptian and British systems. It included a prep year and three years, but it was a four-year study program. It was really diverse and covered the politics of all major regions of the world.

Did you start your Master’s programme straight after you had finished your Bachelor?

No, I wanted to gain some work experience first and I had an inclination to do something related to development. That’s why I joined NGOs focusing on humanitarian and developmental issues in Egypt. I worked with refugees in different spheres, I gave legal advice, and was counselling survivors of sexual based violence as well as case management for children facing social or security problems. After that 2-year-period I felt I was ready to go back to university and started my Masters programme in Bremen.

Why did you chose Bremen for your Mater’s?

Well, I got accepted at different universities for different programmes – studying in the UK was an option, but at that time the Egyptian Pound has lost much of its value so that the programme fees in the UK became pretty much unaffordable. In the end, I chose International Relations in Bremen because I have heard a lot of good things about the city and its university and the IR programme was very research oriented, interdisciplinary and fit my interests in NGOs, IOs and development.  In addition, the program was tailored to those who wants to continue in academia which was something on my mind from the beginning.

What did you write your Master’s thesis on?

It was about the labour market changes and the role of the crony capitalism and neoliberalism in Tunisia after the Arab Spring. Crony Capitalism is not very known terminology but another equivalent is patrimonial capitalism, where the state and the business sector are intertwined through personal relations. Before the revolution the regime has used this crony capitalism to run large parts of the economy. There was a lot of research about the effects of crony capitalism on the economy, but not much about its effects on the labour market and unemployment. That was what I looked into. It was hard due to corona and the travel restrictions – I could not do as much field research as I had planned to do.

What was your main findings?

Crony capitalism had a negative impact on labour market in Tunisia. This is due to its focus on non-productive sectors (that were an interest to crony system) and informal workers. As a result, it deprived the youth with university degrees from finding formal jobs adequate to their qualifications and deteriorated job creation. In addition, it did not give a room for small business to thrive due to competition with monopolies. All this contributed to increasing rates of unemployment. This impact was still significant after the revolution (despite the democratic transition and regime change). Until today, crony capitalism plays a role in employment; monopolies created by cronies employ family members similar to the pre-revolution period. Similar practices are continuing and negatively affecting fair chances to find formal job opportunities. 

Now you are investigating something different: health systems. Have you had an interest in health systems before?

Yes, the link of social policy and development matches my interests very well. I was working as a student assistant in this project for one year already. During this period I was able to co-author a working paper on the introduction of health care systems. I worked as a student assistant in other CRC projects, which brought my interest and attention to different social policies during my master studies. I was specifically interested in the health systems developments. Additionally, I had the idea of doing a PhD on my mind, I wanted to continue in this direction. The fact that the project has a quantitative focus is very interesting to me – I have done some work in this area but I want to acquire much more knowledge about quantitative methods.

What will your role be in the project?

I will focus on the data collection and analysis, besides some administrative tasks like managing student assistants and the social policy country briefs series. In regard to the data collection, we are now collecting data on the legislation throughout the years. In the first phase of the CRC, the project was looking at the health systems at their point of introduction. Now we want to analyse how these systems have developed over time – which social groups are covered and which scope of benefits are provided. And in order to do this, we have to collect the health care legislation texts. After that we want to use artificial intelligence to further collect all the body of legislation as it will take time manually. The data will be analysed quantitively using regression and network analysis.

Have you got plans for your PhD thesis already?

Yes, although it's not quite complete. I want to look into the role of International Organisations in the development of health care systems, especially in the Global South (especially in the Middle East and Africa). It will be difficult to access data, but I think it's worth the effort: There is not much literature on this region and it would be great to contribute to filling this gap. I would like to focus on the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the International Monetary Fund and their influence on countries in North Africa.

How about your plans for the future after your PhD: Would you like to stay in academia or would you like to go back to work for NGOs?

I would like to mix both – research and policy advice. I would like to be teaching in the future and also use the knowledge I gain during my PhD to work as a policy advisor focussing on social development.


Contact:
Mai Mahmoud
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57079
E-Mail: abdoumai@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Jakob Frizell
Dr. Jakob Frizell
Jakob is an expert in peace and conflict research. In his doctoral thesis, he investigated whether and how governments have made wealthy population groups pay for the costs of war.

Jakob, you have specialized in the area of the political economy of armed conflicts. What has sparked your interest in this topic?

I have always had this interest, coupled with an interest in poverty and development. From an early age I got this realisation that there might be a connection between conflicts and underdevelopment. That sparked my academic interest. When I decided to go to university in Lund, I thought: Let’s start out with what I found to be the most interesting course of all to see if that is fun and then continue in that direction. So I started with a peace and conflict studies course in Lund.

Was that during your Bachelor or Masters programme?

During my Bachelor programme. In Sweden, you can pick and choose courses as you want, so I picked peace and conflict studies. And it was even more interesting than I had thought. It wasn't a big plan but in the end it got me into the trajectory of studying peace and conflict.

Did you then specialise in this field during your Masters?

I studied in a – some may say: weird - reverse order. I specialized very much in peace and conflict studies during my bachelor's and also pursued some studies in economic history as I am very much interested in these big political economy questions and secular developments of states. But then I chose a rather broad political science masters, which was very good because then I really got to know the wider theoretical tools of political science. But my passion has always been peace and conflict research, political economy and economic history.

You then did you PhD, and your doctoral thesis has a catchy title: "making the rich pay for the war". Did or do the rich really pay for the war?

Well, the short answer is that they used to do, but they don't do anymore.

I studied in Lebanon for a semester, where I realized that post-conflict society is not only about ethnic animosity, but also a lot about the social and economic issues that come in the aftermath of a conflict. At the same time, I started reading up on this big political economy and historically focused literature based on the experience of total war in Europe and North America. It really fascinated me to see that this war triggered an expansion of progressive taxation and enormous redistribution from the rich to the poor. There were very strong fairness arguments that pushed in this direction. What I learned from Lebanon was that the fairness demands or notions of unfairness were as strong as for example in France during the Second World War. That triggered my interest. I wanted to see if I could apply these theories based on European and North American World War I and World War II developments to the contemporary world and to civil conflicts as well.

To get back to your question:  What I found was that in fact, you could see very much the same patterns during the Cold War in developing countries all over the world. Namely that wars - whether civil wars or interstate wars - trigger demands for redistribution. And demands that were actually followed by governments introducing sometimes astonishingly progressive taxes. In this sense, the rich also had to pay for the war - not only in Germany after World War II, but also during the civil wars in Mozambique or El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s.

But did you find that this progressive taxation really had a redistributive effect or did the rich manage more or less to evade it?

Well, you pinpoint the main weakness in my thesis right way! I am not an economist, I looked quite cleanly at policies rather than at the economic effects of it. In the end, that's something I would like to do in the future: to see if this actually has a repercussions on, for example, the Gini index. But what I could see with the little data I managed to collect was: often these taxes were actually effective. If it was the richest people who got to pay, that's a more difficult question. But most of the time, these taxes were actually very efficient, and I think that's interesting, given the widespread notion that these taxes are near symbolic especially in developing countries.

You have compiled quite large data sets on the taxation practices of about 60 or even more countries that were affected by conflict. Could you describe these datasets a little more?

In order to investigate the question of my thesis, I really wanted some hard data. You can always questioned the validity of this data, but I want to have some kind of a baseline to proceed from. So my idea was to collect data on top income tax rates for all countries that experienced major armed conflicts in the post-world war II era.

Did you look at the years after conflict or the years during conflict as well?

I actually looked at all years – before conflict, during and after. I picked a sample of all countries that had experienced conflicts, but before 1960 is extremely difficult to access data because it was only in the early 1960s that the IMF started to make detailed reports that often but not always included some information on tax rates. My thesis supervisor Philipp Genschel actually warned me from the beginning to start such a big data collection project, because he knew how difficult this would be for countries outside the OECD. But although it took a lot of time, it was very gratifying. And in the end, I learned much more from reading these old IMF reports than from reading second-hand literature. In the end it was really worth the effort to go down into the archives - even if you spend a week just wasting your time and not finding the data point you're after, you do find some additional things and it enriches you.

In this way I found out about war taxes. Initially I was only planning on collecting data on top income tax rates, but then in these reports I found very interesting taxes hiding in the footnotes, which were dedicated to reconstruction, for refugee aid or for the war effort. In the end, I started collecting data on these kind of taxes, too, and I got a global data sets on these. I used it in my thesis and I'm also trying to publish something on that separately now. The origin of this dataset was somewhat of a random discovery. But with it, I can answer some important questions about the political economy of war-affected countries.

This sounds like a perfect preparation for the work you will be doing here at the CRC because such thorough data collection is at the heart of most of our projects. Which leads me to the next question: What made you come to Bremen?

I have been working a little bit with Laura Seelkopf, who was on the CRC team in the first four years, so I became aware of all this massive data collection that was going on here. I then talked to Carina Schmitt who told me a lot about her project, and this sounded very interesting: After four years only focusing on taxes, I felt done with it. But I did not want to let go the political economy and policy consequences of conflict. So when Carina basically offered me on a plate this fantastic data that you had on social policies and the possibility to look at the connection between civil wars and social policy, I thought that this was an ideal continuation of my PhD research. Academically there was not much to think about, it was a fantastic opportunity.

What is your role in project B10 now?

Obviously I am not the social policy expert, I will leave the lead on that to others. My expert knowledge is on civil wars and contemporary conflicts in general. Therefore, I think, I will take responsibility in the conflict side of things, particularly when it comes to civil wars. And I will do a case study on Angola, which I've been working on a little bit before, which is going to be really exciting. I really like the ambition in this project of mixing macro analysis with the case study approach. I'm also trying to assemble a data set that somewhat more accurately than what now exists measures the intensity of contemporary wars. That's the ambition, and hopefully we can achieve some “revolutionary” analysis on the policy effects of war.

What are your plans for your academic career in general?

First and foremost I hope that I get the chance to continue to spend a lot of time doing empirical research, and to be able to combine the said interest in the big questions of political economy and state development with the actual issues on the ground of war-affected countries - always with some kind of normative grounding. Right now, I'm just super happy that I have for years ahead of me where I can focus full heartedly on these issues.


Contact:
Dr. Jakob Frizell
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58602
E-Mail: jfrizell@uni-bremen.de

The CRC project directors have met with the Dean and the Managing Director of the BIGSSS to discuss the structured training programme that will start in September.

On Thursday, the project directors of the CRC 1342 met with the Dean of the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS), Patrick Sachweh, and the BIGSSS Managing Director, Christian Peters, to discuss the current planning status of the training of the CRC PhD students.

The PhD students employed at the University of Bremen will become Affiliated Fellows and complete the structured training programme at the BIGSSS, beginning in September 2022. The training programme is initially very work-intensive: the time required in the first semester is about 1.5 to 2 days per week, but decreases significantly in the following semesters.

The heart of the winter semester 22/23 is a) the weekly "Core Theory Seminar", which offers a broad introduction to theories, theoretical approaches and research directions in the dynamics of social policy, and b) the weekly Proposal Workshop, in which the PhD students develop and discuss the topics of their doctoral theses.

In the course of the summer semester 2023, all PhD students will defend their proposal at the Doctoral Colloquium and present it at the BIGSSS Summer Retreat. Besides a monograph, a cumulative thesis is also an option, consisting of three essays and a theoretical framework.

From the second year onwards, the training programme at the BIGSSS will be flexibly adapted to the needs and wishes of the CRC PhD students ("demand-oriented curriculum"). The seminars and workshops will be covered by networks with other institutions at the University of Bremen and external speakers.

The CRC's external PhD students who are employed at the universities in Bamberg and Bielefeld will not become Fellows of the BIGSSS, but they can attend parts of the course programme at their own choice. In addition, they will be invited to the BIGSSS retreat to present the plans for their theses.

Prof. Lyle Scruggs, PhD
Prof. Lyle Scruggs, PhD
Lyle Scruggs from the University of Connecticut is visiting CRC 1342 this week to discuss a question that is crucial to our projects: How can the generosity of social policy programmes be measured more accurately and made comparable?

This week, Lyle Scruggs (University of Connecticut) is visiting CRC 1342 – unfortunately only remotely via video conference – for discussing methodological questions of great importance for the CRC’s own research:  How to measure the generosity of welfare state programmes to facilitate a meaningful international comparison?

On Wednesday Scruggs gave a talk on “Benefit inequality in social benefit rights”, discussing traditional approaches to grasp benefit generosity (e.g. measuring social programme spending per capita or relative to GDP; replacement rates for a “typical earner”) and their shortcomings: Such broad perspectives do neglect the stratification of many benefit programmes that do privilege certain groups or are taking the average wage-earner as the point of reference. For example: The average replacement rate of a benefit programme far from ideal as an indicator to assess the programmes generosity, because the significance of the paid benefit would be different, depending on the household type: A replacement rate of an unemployment insurance of, say: 60% may be fairly comfortable for a one-person household - but poses a difficult challenge for a four-person household with a single earner, let alone single parents.

It will probably never be possible to perfectly map the generosity of social protection programmes using a handful of indicators. However, Lyle Scruggs' work at least tries to move closer to this ideal: his Comparative Welfare Entitlements Project (CWEP) collects wage replacement rates of social insurance programmes in 33 countries and relates them to ten household types (differentiated by the number of persons, earners and children per household as well as by income classes). By comparing the different household types, Scruggs establishes a measure of the inequality of social insurance programmes.

During his presentation at CRC 1342, for a sample of western industrialised countries, Scruggs combined the measure of inequality of their social insurance schemes with their wage replacement rate for the average worker: There is an obvious trade-off between intra-societal equality of benefits and the general generosity of programmes.

The social security systems of liberal welfare states, such as Australia and New Zealand, have a high level of equality with low wage replacement rates. Most other countries have much higher wage replacement rates, but the benefits are very unequal due to the high dependence of the benefit level on wages. Denmark is an exception here with relatively high equality at relatively high wage replacement rates. Looking at the development over the past nearly 30 years, the UK stands out: social security benefits have become more unequal and have been cut at the same time.

In a workshop on Thursday, Lyle Scruggs will be working with some of the CRC 1342 projects: Together they will discuss how those projects may define, measure and code the generosity and coverage of social protection programmes in their field of research.