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Cases from India, Nepal and Sierra Leone

Dr. Elena Samonova from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bremen, presented her research on human rights-based approaches to education and social policy on 28.06.2023.

Based on her research in India, Nepal and Sierra Leone, Dr. Samonova demonstrated the potentials and limitations of the introduction of human rights discourse in the field of social policy. By stipulating an internationally agreed set of norms, human-rights based approaches provide a stronger basis for citizens to make claims on their states and for holding states to account for their duties to enhance the access of their citizens to the realisation of their social, economic and political rights.

In her presentation Dr. Samonova argued that human rights are a multivocal discourse that should be understood as a polyphonic formation consisting of various meanings and interpretations. Using a case study on agricultural bonded labour in India and Nepal, she showed the liberatory potential of the human rights discourse which helps bonded labourers to regain their agency and restore beliefs in their own human dignity. In the context of structural oppression and systematic deprivation, such processes can positively affect self-image, reduce fear to oppose the oppression and motivate bonded labourers to raise their voices against injustice and search for appropriate methods of resistance. While it remains unclear whether these changes in perceptions will lead to the full abolition of the practice, this case has clearly shown that human rights discourse could serve as a tool for resistance against injustices at the grassroots level.

However, as another case from Sierra Leone shows, local interpretations of human rights not always have a liberatory potential: using the right to education as an example, Dr. Samonova argues that in the context of Sierra Leone the discourse of human rights is used to justify economistic neo-liberal approaches to education and social protection. Moreover, her study has also highlighted cultural and social tensions associated with human rights at the grassroots level. These tensions are related to traditional social hierarchies and an individualistic interpretation of rights that is widespread among people in rural areas and is often supported by the rhetoric of the government and big donor organizations such as World Bank.

Whilst Dr. Samonova points to the challenges associated with the introduction of the human rights discourse to social policy, she stresses significant potentials of human rights as powerful tools against poverty and discrimination.



Samonova, Elena. (2022). Human Rights Through the Eyes of Bonded Labourers in India. Journal of Modern Slavery: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Human Trafficking Solutions, 7(2): 82-96.

Samonova, Elena et al. (2021). “An Empty Bag Cannot Stay Upright: The costs of “free” primary education in Sierra Leone”. International Journal of Educational Development 87: 102500.

Samonova, Elena et al. (2022). Picturing Dangers: Children’s Concepts of Safety and Risks in Rural Sierra Leone. Children and Society 37: 906–924.

Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49-421-218 67410

Conference Report

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Winston Churchill advised in classic fashion: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’, and thus pointed to the potential any crisis entails. This was not lost on the attendees and presenters of the international conference "Economic Crises and Social Policy in the Twentieth Century" on December 1st and 2nd, 2022 which was organised by professors. Delia González de Reufels and Cornelius Torp as part of the CRC project B11.

At the centre of the conference were the two most important worldwide recession phases of the twentieth century: the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s and the crisis-ridden period spanning the oil price shock of the early 1970s to the Asian financial crisis and the economic turmoil in Latin America at the end of the millennium. These shocks generated important impulses in social policy and the conference sought to shed light on these developments. This raised several important questions a to whether economic shocks were ever truly global in nature. And to what extent does the memory of previous crises shape responses to new economic downturns? Finally, what is their relationship to social policy? These overarching questions shaped the presentations and discussions that followed.

The first session focused on the interplay of crises, inequality, and social reform. Phillip Rehm started by explaining the nexus of how crises effect societal risk perception and welfare-state creation. His model linked ‘risk flips’ during a crisis to the increased preference for social programmes. Paul Dutton then demonstrated the ways historians can shed new light on unequal population health outcomes by seeing beyond the myopic fixation with medical care as the sole determinant of health.

Martin Daunton, Jason Scott Smith, and Daniel Béland presented in the second session which engaged with the Great Depression of the 1930s and its aftermath in Britain, the United States and Canada respectively. Topics as varied as tax-system rationalisation, spending on public-works programmes and the different impacts of centralisation vis-á-vis federalism on the implementation of social policies were covered to show the responses of anglophone countries to deep economic crises and the instruments they implemented.

In the third session, Klaus Petersen and Ángela Vergara underlined in their presentations the trajectories of Denmark and Latin America from the Great Depression of the 1930s, to the oil shocks of the 1970s and, in Latin America, the resulting debt crisis in the 1980s. By exploring both internal and external influences, they illuminated the discourses that allowed different forms of social policy to take root.

The presenters of fourth session on social policy reform explained employment policy reform from a comparative perspective in Asia, focussing on South Korea and Japan, and looked at labour and welfare in response to crisis in Australia. Juyoung An called for researchers to pay close attention to union strategy in order to understand divergent social policy outcomes while Gaby Ramia demonstrated the peculiarity of Australia’s ‘wage-earners’ welfare state’.

Drawing the first day to a close, Carmelo Mesa-Lago presented in his key note lecture his findings on pension privatisation in eleven Latin American countries between 1980 and 2020. He showed that, except for those countries who considered increased capitalisation of pension funds, none of the benefits that privatisation had promised, from adequacy and coverage, to concentration, materialised. This implies a serve crisis of pensions in these countries.

On the second day of the conference, Paolo Mattera, Raquel Varela and Paul Stubbs illustrated the impacts economic crises had on the development of the welfare state during the 1970s in Southern Europe and South-Eastern Europe. Mattera showed that Italian political actors opted to align domestic fiscal policy to decisions taken by other European countries, while Stubbs highlighted that the Yugoslavian government favoured the narrative of non-alignment. Finally, Varela demonstrated that important national shifts such as the Carnation Revolution in Portugal were decisive for the field of social policy.

In the following session, Cecilia Rossel and Andrés Solimano presented their work on two countries in the Southern Cone: Uruguay and Chile. Rossel showed how the banking crisis in Uruguay in the early 2000s led to a substantial change in social policy to address the shift of social assistance preferences. Here data indicated that this financial crisis led to a reconsideration of the principles of the 1989 ‘Washington Consensus’. Andrés Solimano’s work similarly drew attention to the complex relationship between increasing socio-economic inequality in Latin America during the period of stabilisation on the one hand, privatisation and liberalisation and the response by means of social policies on the other.

Social policy development in the face of crisis in Asia, the title of the seventh panel, was illustrated by the example of China where according to Aiqun Hu, social security reforms were made in a response to the employment crisis in China during the 1970s. This research tells the story of how the impact of an economic crisis was addressed in the field of social policy in the context of a system of state planned economy.

After an inspiring conference a lively debate completed the second day of the CRC conference. This discussion highlighted the need to evaluate ‘crises’ on both a theoretical and empirical level. The detailed historic reconstruction and analysis of the repercussions of economic crises on social policy needs to include a trans- and cross-national as well as a historical perspective. is an important endeavour that the participants emphasised as being far from completed. Future work could therefore enrich the field by focusing on more regions as for example African countries. Different aspects like gender and the categories of work distinguishing for example between formal and informal labour are aspects that could be worth looking at in more detail in further debates. The conference nevertheless demonstrated that the link between economic crises and social policy is a rich and fundamentally important topic of research a with the potential to enlighten the overarching CRC interest in exploring the global dynamics of social policy.



Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft / FB 08
Universitäts-Boulevard 13
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67200

Prof. Dr. Cornelius Torp
Dr. Viola Asri (University of Konstanz), Anna Hochleitner (University of Nottingham)
Dr. Viola Asri (University of Konstanz), Anna Hochleitner (University of Nottingham)
The project team A02 invited two colleagues – Viola Asri and Anna Hochleitner. They presented their most recent research projects, which used experimental approaches to address pressing questions on social policy, inequality and development.

The part of the team of the A02 project around Sebastian Fehrler is currently preparing a quasi-experimental impact evaluation study of the social pension in Bangladesh. To exchange with other experts on experimental approaches in social policy and inequality in the Global South, we invited Anna Hochleitner – soon to start her new Post-Doc position at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) – to discuss her latest experimental research on the impact of shocks and relative income on redistributive preferences.

After that, Viola Asri – recently appointed as a Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) in Bergen – presented her latest experimental work (with Ankush Asri and Anke Hoeffler) on the causal effects of a career exploration programme for young women in Indian schools in a large northern city in India.

Both presentations elicited a lot of debate among the participants and provided a lot of food for thought for the A02 project of the CRC 1342. We are looking forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration with the two presenters in the future.

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Fehrler
The EOC shares the concerns and criticism regarding the BMBF's draft reform of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts)

The Equal Opportunity Committee (EOC) of the SFB 1342 shares the concerns and criticism regarding the BMBF's draft reform of the Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz (WissZeitVG - German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts) which have been expressed in various ways by academic mid-level staff and employee representatives. As a body within a large third-party-funded association, the EOC has a statutory responsibility to address issues of equality and anti-discrimination. With this statement, we aim to highlight the problems and challenges associated with both the current and the proposed new version of the WissZeitVG, particularly in relation to equality and anti-discrimination within third-party funded research networks.

  • Lack of equal treatment of early careers in the case of care obligations

In principle, it is commendable that the planned reform aims to address the lost qualification periods of third-party funded employees due to parental leave or care activities. However, the reform proposal falls short by only providing an extension for the first three years of the postdoc period. Overall, these proposals are far from sufficient to remedy the existing shortcomings. It is necessary to apply the care-compensating rules to all third-party funded employees. Furthermore, it is particularly problematic that the reduction of working hours due to childcare responsibilities (i.e., Elterngeld Plus Program) is not taken into account when calculating the qualification period. For example, a person who reduces their working hours to 50% for one year due to care obligations is still credited with a full year towards their maximum qualification period, rather than half a year, which would be fair in comparison to individuals without care obligations. Opting for the Elterngeld Plus Program thus becomes a significant disadvantage.

  • Intersectional Disadvantages of International Scholars and Scientists

The WissZeitVG is highly complex. The lack of transparency, varying interpretations at different university locations, and the absence of information in English are among the challenges that international early career scientists face. For instance, navigating through bureaucratic systems consumes a substantial amount of time and energy, hindering substantial research activities. Alongside everyday discrimination, intersectional disadvantages of various kinds arise in both private and work spheres. Given that Germany has a strong interest in attracting scientists worldwide, the WissZeitVG should acknowledge and address the intersectional challenges faced by international scientists in Germany. The described challenges are also a serious disadvantage in the global competition for the best minds.

  • Obstructed future perspectives within the research network

Post-docs who are appointed as Principal Investigators (PIs) in a subsequent phase of an SFB project, based on their excellent competency in the prior phase, usually require funding from federal states. However, according to the planned revision of the WissZeitVG, such positions are not possible anymore, despite the significant benefits their expertise brings to the research association. The example of the SFB 1342 highlights that it is predominantly women who, as post-docs, assume the responsibility for a sub-project as (co-)PIs.

  • Discrimination against individuals who have worked in scientific positions in Germany

The non-transparent and often inconsistent interpretation of which periods are recognized as qualification periods leads to unequal treatment of qualification periods completed in Germany compared to those completed abroad, as the latter are generally not credited. This places individuals who have solely pursued their academic career in Germany at a disadvantage compared to those with professional experience abroad. This discrepancy particularly affects individuals with care obligations, who may have limited mobility compared to those without care responsibilities.

Equal Opportunities Committee:


A group of researchers from the CRC 1342 and BIGSSS attended a two-day workshop given by Dr Saskia Schottelius on “The Art of Self-Presenting for Female Scientists”.

The workshop covered several aspects related to self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-presentation.

A group of researchers from the CRC 1342 and BIGSSS attended a two-day workshop given by Dr Saskia Schottelius on “The Art of Self-Presenting for Female Scientists”. The workshop covered several aspects related to self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-presentation; focussing particularly on the additional challenges that women encounter in academic institutions that have historically been dominated by men. Through theoretical inputs, practical exercises, and peer-to-peer coaching, the participants were able to reflect on their own strengths and goals, while benefiting from the mutual encouragement provided by the group. The many themes covered will require continuous practice, and the participating researchers agreed that the workshop had benefited them for their academic paths going forward.

Dr. Anna Wolkenhauer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57099

Members of the project’s expert network GIST
Members of the project’s expert network GIST
On the 5th and 6th of May, the B01 project held a workshop at the University of Bremen.

They were joined by members of the project’s expert network GIST (Group Inclusion and Social Policies over Time), an international group of social policy scholars from South Korea, China, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Iran, Uruguay, Mexico, USA, Australia, Russia, and Sweden.

A central aim of the project is to compare the temporal sequence of inclusion into social security schemes in 20 countries around the world. The project aims to explore national social security legislation to find out what groups were covered by social security in what temporal sequence. The purpose of the workshop was to draw conclusions from the comparative assessment of group constructions (in laws on old-age security, survivors' pensions and unemployment insurance) for exploring the legitimation patterns for the inclusion and exclusion of groups. Moreover, the network planned its publication strategy and laid down next steps for future projects and cooperation.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574

@ Pixabay (RosZie)
@ Pixabay (RosZie)
Within the frame of the A07 project “Global Dynamics of Long-term Care Policies”, the team supervised by Heinz Rothgang and Simone Leiber is looking to implement innovative research on long- term care systems in international comparison.

A particular aspect of the A07 project is the application of case vignettes to investigate the inclusiveness of different benefits schemes in a selected sample of countries. The goal is to identify and assess the legislative strength and relevance of various factors influencing eligibility, with particular attention to care needs, cognitive limitations, and socio-economic conditions. To properly discuss the implementation and select the variables and eligibility conditionalities to include in the vignettes, the A07 team is organising two workshops with a group of renowned international experts with extensive knowledge on the topic of long-term care, who agreed to support and consult the team throughout the process.

Using vignette cases allows for combining the details and complexity of real-life scenarios with experimental designs’ variable modifications, which in turn provides the chance to assess the relevance of a single variable. While this methodology is mainly applied to interpret individual judgement, beliefs, and intended conduct, team A07’s approach to the methodology is different as it profiles the method to be used in the field of social policy, where vignette studies are still underused. In this application, the vignettes present different carefully constructed profiles of people needing long-term care through constructed descriptions, including various aspects of needs for care, economic situation, family constitution, and living conditions. The vignettes, obtained by the symmetrical and orthogonal combination of the selected variables from these fields, are then going to be presented through a questionnaire to a group of respondents with in-depth knowledge of the single long-term care systems eligibility assessment methodologies to evaluate which benefits could be granted to the different profiles in each country. Against the background of the A07 project’s aim, which pays particular attention to the risk of dementia in long-term care, the role of the syndrome in granting potential access to benefit schemes will be under scrutiny.

The results will then be analysed quantitatively to identify correlations between specific conditionalities and the inclusion in the target population for particular types of benefits.

The first and more informational meeting took place on Thursday, the 23rd of March, 2023. It produced a fascinating discussion on the methodology and the aspects and factors that need to be considered to make the application of the method feasible while balancing the intrinsic trade-off between depth and case complexity that using vignettes requires. Building on the feedback obtained in the first meeting, the A07 team plans to organise a draft formulation of the different vignettes and the questionnaire for data collection. The second meeting with the consulting experts will take place on the 24th of May, 2023, and will focus on reviewing and refining the drafted vignettes before finalising the questionnaire.

Prof. Dr. Simone Leiber
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Faculty of Education
Universitätsstraße 2
45141 Essen
Phone: +49 201 183-2319

Prof. Dr. Heinz Rothgang
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58557

One of Italy‘s long-term care experts, Dr. Giovanni Lamura, who leads the Centre for Socio-Economic Research on Ageing ( within the National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing (INRCA IRCCS), had exciting news to deliver

The main factors that made this much needed reform possible included the COVID-19 pandemic, post-pandemic resilience plans funded by the EU, the leadership of the previous government under Draghi, as well as the joint lobbying efforts of a large civil society coalition together with a group of long-term care experts. The coalition comprises almost 60 organisations including care providers, trade unions, employer associations, religious organisations, and the most expert academics in the field, including Lamura himself. Strongly supported by the bottom-up process initiated by this coalition, the framework law will allow for the creation of legislative decrees which in turn can implement its core elements via more detailed acts.

The elements of the framework law cover several aspects of long-term care for older people. The proposal made by the coalition to establish long-term care as a distinct sector of the welfare state was not included in the framework law, but one of the main elements of Italian long-term care will be significantly changed: The care allowance (indennità di accompagnamento) will see its first major overhaul since its creation in the 1980s. It will be replaced by a Universal Benefit which for the first time will foresee different levels of care needs. This will also require a standardisation of the assessment system, which so far had been characterised by wide regional differences in terms of practical implementation. The Universal Benefit will be granted either in the form of monetary transfers, or in-kind services. The latter could also include privately hired home-based care workers – half of which are currently employed in undeclared form – and thus facilitate regular contractual conditions. Other plans to integrate these home-based care workers (mostly female migrant workers) into the long-term care system foresee harmonised training paths and standards, as well as the reorganisation of existing contributions and tax reliefs for families who employ these care workers.

Other elements of the reform address the requalification of residential care, the horizontal fragmentation of the current system via an inter-ministerial committee, the vertical coordination of different governance levels, as well as improved support structures for family carers. Finally, the framework law also promotes active ageing and thereby follows a holistic and preventative approach to long-term care.

Whilst Dr. Lamura pointed to the difficulties on funding for the envisaged changes in long-term care – a policy field that is often subjugated to healthcare – he did underline the enormous step that was taken with this framework law. He is hopeful that the effective lobbying efforts of the civil society coalition that formed in this process will continue to positively impact the reform of long-term care for older people in the upcoming years.

To learn more about the pact for a new welfare in long-term care for older people, visit (only in Italian):

Text: Marlene Seiffarth

Marlene who was a member of the CRC 1342 in the first funding period has analysed which and how actors have shaped the institutionalisation process of the migrant-in-the-family care model in Italy.

On Tuesday, 21 March 2023, Marlene Seiffarth successfully defended her PhD dissertation based on her research as part of the project “Transnational Service Provision in Long-term Care between Western and Eastern Europe” ( of the first funding period. Her cumulative dissertation entitled “The Perpetuation of the Migrant-in-the-Family Care Model in Italy” is comprised of three first-authored papers, all published in peer-reviewed journals (see links below). In a colourful and thought-provoking presentation, she presented the contributions of her papers to both the academic and policy world. All papers attest to the perpetuation of a care model based upon and reproducing global inequalities. These inequalities manifest in inadequate working conditions for the almost one million (mostly female) migrant care workers in the country, who mainly come from Eastern European countries (63%) and countries of the Global South (37%).  Although informal employment (payment off the books and without social security registration) is wide-spread in the migrant care work sector, the rate of informal employment decreased from 90% in 1995 to 52% in 2021. An important factor in this formalisation process in Italy are the efforts of the collective bargaining social partners – trade unions and employer associations – who have created irrevocable standards in the absence of national policies and outdated legislation, as well as a conducive environment for formalisation via their administrative and legal support services they offer to their members.


For more results of Marlene’s research, access her publications:

Seiffarth, M. (2023) Collective bargaining in domestic work and its contribution to regulation and formalization in Italy, International Labour Review, Accepted Author Manuscript,

Seiffarth, M. (2022) Potenziale für „gute Arbeit“ im Privathaushalt? Regulierung und Interessenvertretung migrantischer Pflegekräfte in Italien, WSI Mitteilungen 75(5), 386-393,

Seiffarth, M & Aureli, G. (2022) Social Innovation in Home-Based Eldercare: Strengths and Shortcomings of Integrating Migrant Care Workers into Long-Term Care in Tuscany,
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, Vol. 19 (17), 10602;

Seiffarth, M. (2021) Crisis as Catalyst? Romanian Migrant Care Workers in Italian Home-Based Care Arrangements, Sociológia - Slovak Sociological Review, Vol. 53 (5), 502-520;

Dr. Lorraine Frisina-Doetter (SOCIUM and CRC 1342 member) served as rapporteur for the WHO/Europe at their first-ever “Health in the Well-Being Economy” Regional Forum on 1-2 March 2023 at UN City, Copenhagen, DK.

Building on the growing awareness of the importance of health to well-being economies, the Forum demonstrated how countries are already shifting investment, spending and resources.
The Forum also focused on actions needed to be taken going forward, as the European Region faces the interlinked challenges of climate change, the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. These challenges are placing health, social care and welfare systems under strain, and widening health inequities across the Region.

The event gathered high-level representatives from ministries of health, finance and economy, together with government advisors working on recovery, resilience and sustainable development policies, public health policy-makers, and representatives of national and international banks, nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and European Union agencies.

Key speakers included: Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Katrin Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland; Professor Mario Monti, Former Prime Minister of Italy and European Commissioner; Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, Institute of Health Equity, University College London.

Dr. Lorraine Frisina Doetter
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58561

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