News from Project B01


Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels (photo: Steven Keller)
Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels (photo: Steven Keller)
Delia González de Reufels explains in an interview why Latin America has become the hotspot of the Covid 19 pandemic and how the countries are pursuing different strategies to cope with it.

The Covid-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly in Latin America. What's your take on the situation?

The WHO has only recently declared Latin America the new hot spot of the pandemic, and the situation is really frightening. Unlike in Ecuador, where the first case occurred as early as the end of February in connection with a visit to a relative of a woman living in Madrid, corona infections were not recorded in many countries until mid-March. This meant that people generally had more time to prepare for the outbreak than Europe and the USA, for example. However, this valuable time was often not used or could not be used.

How do you explain this?

It may sound trivial, but one of the explanations is that in the face of an impending pandemic, it is not possible to suddenly remedy all the failures of the past in the health sector. The Corona crisis exposes the weaknesses of health systems and general infrastructure, as well as the extent of corruption. At the same time, the crisis exacerbates existing social inequality, political problems and tensions. To name but one infrastructural shortcoming: not all households are supplied with drinking water everywhere. Those who have to fetch water meet neighbours there and will inevitably come into contact with many people. Decades of cutbacks in the health sector - and Mexico is a good example of this - also have a direct negative impact. In Mexico, public spending on health has remained the same despite a growing population. For years, they have amounted to just under 3% of the national budget. If you compare this with the expenditure of other countries in the hemisphere, only Guatemala and Venezuela spend less on health. This is in stark contrast to the importance Mexico used to attach to the health sector. After all, the country had invested heavily in public health and social security since the 1940s.

Another reason why the pandemic has hit many Latin American countries so hard is the populism of individual governments. Here, no attempt was made to counter the pandemic in a timely and targeted manner; rather, the danger of the corona virus was played down for a very long time. This also applies to Mexico. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador briefly reached into his jacket pocket at a rally in response to a question and took out two images of saints. He held them up and claimed to feel well protected. He explained that nothing could happen to him. In doing so, he actually evaded the question of government measures against the pandemic and gave the simple Mexicans the signal to be one of them; he did not concern himself with the scientific findings on the new virus. Recently, he has again refused to be tested for Covid-19 because he shows no symptoms. At the same time, the President signals: "This government sees no reason to do anything and, for example, to increase the testing capacities. We can see the terrible consequences of this attitude these days.

The virus has also spread with dramatic consequences in Brazil, where the pandemic as a whole was negated by President Jaïr Bolsonaro. The province of Amazonia, which is medically undersupplied, has suffered a dramatic loss of life, particularly among the indigenous populations. But even in a city like Sao Paulo, graves have become scarce in recent days, and the cemetery administration has been instructed to exhume those who died a long time ago and to store the bones in containers until further notice. This should make room for the many new dead. At the same time the true dimensions of the crisis are being obscured. The decision taken by the Ministry of Health to no longer publish infection numbers speaks for itself. However, it could not be maintained because it was criticised equally strongly at home and abroad. And Mexico did not always provide all the figures either, as was shown by the reports of medical personnel. These staff were often unable to reconcile their own observations with the figures published for the capital city of Mexico, for example.

Are there any counter-examples, i.e. governments in Latin America that have taken the crisis seriously and adopted good practice from other countries?

In the CRC's project B02 we look at Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which are considered pioneers in the field of social policy and public health. And indeed, all three countries took far-reaching measures at a very early stage that fit in with what we know from Europe and are obviously oriented towards these instruments. However, in the southern hemisphere, the virus broke out in the autumn and the peak of the outbreak will be in winter. That will shape the crisis, but all three countries are operating quite successfully:

For example, since the first case was reported in mid-March according to official authorities, Uruguay has had surprisingly low infection rates and few deaths. According to official figures, the death rate here is 0.65 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is mainly attributed to the good condition of the health system, in which governments have continuously invested over the last ten years. The early closure of borders, schools and air traffic and the banning of major events may also have been decisive, but there were no curfews. Now, gradual relaxation is to take place, and the low infection rates have encouraged the government of President Luis Lacalle Pou to do so.

The situation is somewhat different in Chile, where almost 3000 people have died so far. Strict initial regulations continue to apply here, schools and universities remain closed. Santiago residents are only allowed to leave their homes two days a week, and then only with a pass and to do their shopping. These strict
Regulations affect the precariously employed particularly hard and are also problematic because they have fallen in a period of violent protests. In the social media it has already been suspected that the virus would suit the government of Sebastián Piñera. Unemployment, which is already rising, is further increasing social inequality, while at the same time the infection figures are still at a high level, so that easing is unlikely to be announced in the foreseeable future. The peak of the corona crisis is also still to come in Chile. Meanwhile, the unsuccessful health minister has been replaced, whose lack of intervention in the pricing of medicines had also been criticised in previous protests.

Argentina has been very successful so far, as the almost 30,500 infections (as of June 14, 2020) show, although the infection figures in Buenos Aires are currently on the rise again. The strict measures that the country has taken since 20 March can be considered the reason for the success in fighting the virus so far. In the field of public health, the Peronist government of Alberto Fernández has acted quickly and decisively. Right at the beginning of the crisis, it had declared its intention to build ten new hospitals in and around Buenos Aires. This was a very ambitious announcement in view of the foreign debt that the country has to pay and which also sets limits on the aid that can be given to the workers. However, it was probably a reaction to the news from China, where, given the dynamics of the outbreak, new hospitals were quickly built and the additional treatment places were apparently needed. Recognizing that urban density, as in Wuhan or New York City, is a major factor in the spread of the disease, the government has paid special attention to the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The outbreak here has prompted the government to extend the "social distancing" measure until June 28, although other regions with lower infection rates may act more flexibly. For a period of 65 days, La Pampa did not count any new cases, and it was only in these days that the sixth infected person was reported at all, who immediately went into quarantine. So here too we see the application of the measures already practised in China.

Looking at the statistics of reported cases, it is striking that the countries of Latin America are affected to very different degrees.

There is obviously a connection between not testing and not knowing. At present, for example, the number of infections in Peru is rising rapidly, but it must be assumed that the number of unreported cases is much higher, which also affects the number of deaths. People die without being tested. This is also the case in Nicaragua. It is completely unclear how many people there have fallen ill with Covid-19 and how many have died of it. In the death certificates, pneumonia is given as the cause of death because the patients were simply not tested. This also means that they do not appear in the statistics. Instead, the government, which two years ago was the target of massive protests, is declaring that it is following the Swedish model. However, the alleged adoption of the Swedish model is an attempt to hide the fact that they do not have the necessary infrastructure and resources for a different approach.

Mexico had similar plans ...

Mexiko's president had also stated that the crisis would be managed without measures that were harmful to the economy. This is due to the fact that many people in the country are precariously employed or work in the informal sector. What do all the street vendors, the domestic workers do in lockdown? Those who have no savings cannot afford to stay at home. In a federally organized state like Mexico, however, the governors of the 32 states are of great importance, as the Corona crisis has shown. They have ordered lockdowns, closed schools and universities. But in some cases the infection rates were already very high.

What are the economic consequences for Latin America?

Arrangements such as those made by Germany, for example, with very generous support packages for the economy and workers, are something most countries cannot afford. Unemployment is therefore very high, although it is known that the unemployed in the informal sector do not appear in the statistics. As a result, the countries will slide into recession, and then it will become clear whether this will shake the faith in democracy and possibly attract other actors. In Brazil there was already concern that the military could be called in as a stabilizing factor. That would be fatal in a country that has experienced such a long and brutal military dictatorship, which has still not been dealt with.

Are there any other characteristics of the course of the pandemic in Latin America?

An important aspect is that these countries often fail to protect medical personnel consistently. In the long term, this will lead to an erosion of the efficiency of health care provision. There have been shocking reports from the beginning of the outbreak in Mexico City - which colleagues have confirmed to me - when hospital staff were instructed not to wear face masks or the like in order not to unsettle the citizens. There was concern that panic might break out among the population because they might understand that the pandemic is more dangerous than the government claims. The staff is still unprotected now because there is no protective clothing and masks in sufficient numbers. Doctors and nurses report that they have to find it themselves and buy it privately or use masks several times.

The government regards the population not as mature citizens, but as a people that must be manipulated.

Yes, that can also be seen from the fact which countries are prepared to give a precise insight into the figures of the outbreak. In Brazil, there have also been accusations that the situation in Amazonia is verging on genocide. Because indigenous populations are not protected by the authorities from contact with smugglers and gold-washers and other invaders into their territory. The population there was and is medically undersupplied, has no access to resources and no lobby. This is also very worrying.

Absolutely, but unfortunately it fits the priorities of the government.

That's right. Brazil under Bolsonaro aims very strongly at an economic development and penetration of the Amazon at the expense of the population living there. Marching towards a human and ecological catastrophe.

How does the Corona pandemic affect your research?

I wanted to fly to Chile in March for archival work. But I had to cancel the trip.

Travel will be difficult for many more months. What consequences does this have for your project?

We were lucky that we went on archive trips at a very early stage and reviewed and collected a lot of material. But on the other hand, now that we are evaluating our sources, gaps are appearing which we would like to close. The only question is, how can we do this? After all, European collections of sources are now becoming accessible again. But there remain the Latin American archives, which we cannot consult at present. This is definitely a burden, especially since there is no certainty for planning. We cannot assume that we will be able to close the gaps in the coming year. When the archives will be open again and when we can travel is unfortunately completely uncertain.


Contact:
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
E-Mail: dgr@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
In a podcast interview, Klaus Schlichte looks at the Covid-19 pandemic in African countries and the measures taken by governments.

"There are differences between countries, but repressive policies are the dominant ones," says Klaus Schlichte with regard to the governmental reactions to the spread of the novel corona virus in Africa. In many countries there are curfews, he says, which are massively enforced by the police, at least in the cities. What may seem necessary from an epidemiological point of view, however, also has negative consequences: "By stopping traffic, there are apparently already crises in the supply of food to the urban population," says Schlichte. If there were to be permanent increases in food prices, hunger riots would be a great danger. Even before the pandemic, many people in African cities could hardly afford food.

At present, the African continent seems to be comparatively little affected by the pandemic. This is due to the relatively low international mobility of the population. "But once the virus has reached the cities, it is likely to spread faster than in Europe, for example," says Schlichte. "Because people live closer together and have fewer retreat areas in the form of their own apartments or houses."

The poor data situation makes it difficult to predict how the pandemic will develop. One problem with the prognosis is that there is hardly any data on the spread of pre-existing conditions such as asthma and other respiratory diseases. "African societies are much younger than, say, European societies. There are comparatively few elderly people in whom Covid-19 is more likely to develop particularly severe conditions". This positive effect may be outweighed by the fact that there are many people who are malnourished and undernourished.

Economically, the Covid-19 pandemic is hitting African societies hard. Tourism, which is of great importance in the coastal regions, but also in the interior in the form of safaris, is experiencing a massive slump. "More important, however, is the decline in so-called remittances [i.e. money transfers from family members working in Europe, for example]. As a result, the most important source of foreign currency in African economies is collapsing." In total, the remittances are higher than the total development aid that African countries receive.

In the medium term, however, the Corona crisis could also have positive consequences: "It is possible that pressure on African governments will now increase," says Schlichte, "to spend more money on public health care and less on the military and police.

The podcast interview with Klaus Schlichte was conducted by Thomas Walli of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Innsbruck as part of the special series "Corona and Politics".


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Schlichte
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67475
E-Mail: kschlich@uni-bremen.de

Johanna Kuhlmann (project B01) is currently (January to March 2020) a Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford.

She is a guest of Professor Jane Gingrich. During her stay, Johanna works on causal mechanisms in actor-centred approaches to comparative social policy.

Johanna Kuhlmann Oxford_Profil.png (174 KB)


Contact:
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574
E-Mail: johanna.kuhlmann@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Delia Gonzáles de Reufels
Prof. Dr. Delia Gonzáles de Reufels
Interview with Delia González de Reufels on the protests against the Chilean government and the first results of her research visits to Santiago de Chile.

For a very long time Chile was regarded as a very stable and economically successful country. But suddenly there are mass protests and violence, especially by the security forces. How did this happen?

The current trigger was an increase in public transport prices. This may seem incomprehensible, but Chile already has the most expensive transport system in South America. In addition, in the metropolitan region of Santiago with its eight million inhabitants, the distances are very long. Not everyone can live where they work. The transport system is therefore used by many on a daily basis and a considerable part of their income is spent on this alone. After all, who uses public transport? Chileans with top incomes, of which there are many, are not dependent on it. There are a lot of people with small and middle incomes in the Santiago area and the price increase hits them very hard. But the dissatisfaction is also directed against the lack of socio-political interest of the current government, which in its second term of office has no new visions for a more socially just Chile. This has disappointed many who had hoped for initiatives in core areas such as pensions, education, health care and health insurance.

Despite the country's great economic success, if you look at the macro data, not all sections of the population seem to have benefited. Or why is it that many parts of the population are so poor?

This is an interesting finding. At the macro level, Chile is a very rich and prosperous country, it is an OECD member and has been spared major economic crises. But in the end you have to ask yourself who is actually benefiting from these developments. A very large part of the population generates only a minimum income and has to bear rising costs for local transport, rent and heating. Water supply is also expensive. Chile also has to bear many economic consequences of the military junta's policy, which came to power in 1973 through a bloody coup. For example, energy companies can raise the price of heating oil in winter. These are the results of the economic reforms that took place during the dictatorship and that were not revoked afterwards. This has led to great inequalities. Large sections of the population have the impression that they struggle but do not participate in the country's prosperity. This rage has now unloaded and is unlikely to subside as quickly.

What does the Chilean social system look like? Can't it absorb poverty?

As one of the pioneers of social policy, Chile developed and implemented many measures very early on. But it also downscaled and withdrew programmes and redefined who benefited from these measures. Even though there have been many new socio-political interventions, the military dictatorship continues to have an effect here as well. Because politics has never really devoted itself to poverty reduction, Chile - like many other Latin American countries - has many poor people. Poverty was condoned and therefore persisted.

How do you explain that? Since the military dictatorship was not dependent on the masses to be elected? Because you could ignore them?

Yes, and because, on the one hand, the military dictatorship has made clientele politics and, on the other, it has opened itself to neo-liberalism and reformed the economy accordingly. The argument that a dictatorship can carry out efficient reforms because it does not have to assure itself of the voters' approval and coordinate processes in parliament etc. also played a role here. As a result, people have been left behind. Although the country stands out on the macroeconomic level by South American standards and is considered very stable, it has been fermenting below the surface for a long time. Despite everything, the country is still very attractive, with many immigrants coming from neighbouring Spanish-speaking countries. Chile has also recorded an influx from Haiti in recent years, which is predominantly male and very noticeable in Santiago. The Afro-Caribbean population has not been found in Chile until recently. The country is also now confronted with the challenge of offering Spanish as a foreign language, which up to now has not had to be taken into account in immigration. The country is not prepared for this, and many Chileans are critical of this new immigration.

With regard to your research, you were now on site yourself and did research in archives. What did you find there?

I was in the National Library in Santiago, which has excellent collections from the 19th century, which is the time I also consider in my research. I was also in the National Archives, which houses a variety of relevant sources. In the archives, I tried above all to get an idea of the socio-political ideas of key actors, to read their publications, and to get acquainted with those with whom they exchanged ideas. I was able to close important gaps and also work with serial sources that are important for my research interests. For example, journals, but also individual works that cannot be found in the National Library in Spain either.

What kind of journals are these?

For example, I have worked a lot with a specialist journal for Chilean doctors. The doctors got together very early and founded a journal in Santiago based on the European model. Chile is still a strongly centralised country, and at that time there was only one medical training centre: the Escuela de Medicina at the University of Santiago. All medical graduates therefore knew each other and wanted their own journal to communicate what was going on in Chile and other countries, what was published in European journals and above all to discuss what Chilean medicine was doing and how the country's medical education should be changed. So scientific as well as disciplinary interest was brought into this medium. The exciting thing for me is that this journal became such an important forum for the exchange of doctors. The role of medicine in society was also discussed here. This journal still exists today, but with a clear focus on scientific topics. It has been published without interruption, even during the time of the military dictatorship, and has become a place where doctors have negotiated what needs to be improved in Chile in order for people to be healthier. These considerations have also been incorporated into the country's social policy instruments.

Can you predict the first results of your research project on Chile?

Yes, in the field of social policy we are dealing with actors who we also encounter in Europe, but who, in the absence of other actors in Chile, are becoming more important and are taking different paths.

You mean, the doctors?

Yes, they didn't make any progress with their demands and suggestions - so they got themselves elected to the congress and took office as members of parliament with the claim to make politics in their sense. In the congress, they themselves introduced proposals for laws and voted on them. This is something we see throughout the 20th century. Thus the later Chilean President Salvador Allende was a doctor, worked as a health minister and wrote 1939 with the volume "La Realidad Médico-Social Chilena" one of the important books about Chile's social problems. With this work Allende has politically distinguished himself. This is no coincidence, but the result of the great proximity of medicine to politics, which was established in Chile in the 19th century.


Contact:
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
E-Mail: dgr@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Kerstin Martens, Prof. Dr. Marianne Ulriksen, Sharla Plant, Dr. Lorraine Frisina Doetter, Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
Prof. Dr. Kerstin Martens, Prof. Dr. Marianne Ulriksen, Sharla Plant, Dr. Lorraine Frisina Doetter, Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
In a workshop with publisher Sharla Plant the editorial board finalised its plan for the next 18 months and developed ideas for further volumes.

At the beginning of December, the editors of the new CRC Palgrave Macmillan book series "Global Dynamics of Social Policy", Lorraine Frisina Doetter, Delia González de Reufels, Kerstin Martens and Marianne Ulriksen met with Palgrave publisher Sharla Plant in Bremen. It was jointly agreed that three volumes would be published next year:

  • Carina Schmitt (Ed.): Social Protection in the Global South
  • Lutz Leisering (Ed.): A Hundred Years of Social Security in Middle-Income Countries
  • Kerstin Martens, Dennis Niemann & Alexandra Kaasch (Ed.): International Organizations in Global Social Policy


Subsequently, the draft of an edited volume was discussed, which will tell a short history of socio-political turning points worldwide in about 40 short articles. The contributions are exclusively provided by members of CRC 1342 and are based on results of its 15 projects. The volume will be published in the first half of 2021.

After the editors had decided on a design for the Palgrave CRC series, Sharla Plant met in the afternoon with around a dozen authors who presented their ideas for further volumes in individual discussions. These ideas will be finalised in the coming months.

Dr. Olivier Burtin
Dr. Olivier Burtin
The historian Olivier Burtin from the LMU was a guest at the CRC 1342 and explained the generosity of veteran care as a result of numerous causal mechanisms.

At the beginning of November Olivier Burtin, historian at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, was a guest at the CRC 1342. Burtin gave a guest lecture at the Socium and took part in the conference "Causal Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Policy Dynamics" on the following days.

Burtin investigates the development of the US-American social program, which exclusively favours war veterans and has an annual budget of about 220 billion US dollars. Burtin interpreted the social program for war veterans as the result of several causal mechanisms:

  • The USA was involved in many wars
  • The wars were fought almost exclusively outside the country, which hardly affected the civilian population, unlike the soldiers - this gap gives moral weight to the claims of the veterans
  • Veteran organizations are established and influential political forces
  • Social benefits for veterans have a long tradition
  • Until the middle of the 20th century, the US army consisted almost exclusively of white men, a group with great political weight
  • And, finally, politicians were reluctant to cut benefits for veterans so as not to jeopardize their chances of success in elections.

 


Contact:
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
E-Mail: dgr@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Armando Barrientos
Prof. Armando Barrientos
Barrientos, a leading expert in social policy and poverty reduction in the Global South, will stay in Bremen until early December.

Armando Barrientos has joined the Collaborative Research Center 1342 last week as a Mercator Fellow. Barrientos is a leading international expert on social policy and poverty reduction in the Global South. Most recently he has publishes extensively on the expansion of social assistance in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Barrientos will initially stay in Bremen until the beginning of December. During this time he will participate in the conference "Causal Mechanisms in the Analysis of Social Policy Dynamics", where he will give a lecture on "The rise and fall of Bismarckian social policy in Latin America". In the coming weeks, Barrientos will also consult with various projects of the CRC 1342. After his visit Barrientos will remain a consultant and cooperation partner of the CRC 1342. In the coming year, for example, he will organise a colloquium for doctoral students researching social policy in Latin America.

Armando Barrientos is the first Mercator Fellow at the CRC 1342. The DFG-funded Mercator Fellowships facilitate intensive and long-term exchange with international researchers.


Contact:
Prof. Armando Barrientos
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58521
E-Mail: Armando.Barrientos@manchester.ac.uk

The Socium and the CRC 1342 have launched a working paper series. The first papers have now been published.

The series is opened by Armando Barrientos, Professor Emeritus at the Global Development Institute (University of Manchester) and currently Mercator Fellow in the project “Mechanisms of Social Policy Dynamics” (B01). Additional authors of the series are Bastian Becker (Socium), Gulnaz Isabekova (CRC 1342), and Greta-Marleen Storath (CRC 1342).

The working papers can be found here:
https://www.socialpolicydynamics.de/working-paper-series

The SOCIUM SFB 1342 WorkingPapers offer an additional and fast opportunity to publish research results including a double-blind peer-review procedure. The working paper series is open to all members of the Socium and the CRC 1342, as well as their cooperation partners.

The working paper series is coordinated by Johanna Kuhlmann.


Contact:
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574
E-Mail: johanna.kuhlmann@uni-bremen.de

The Collaborative Research Centre 1342 and Palgrave McMillan are publishing a new book series. The first volumes will be released in early 2020.

The CRC 1342 and Palgrave McMillan launched this series in order to publish research findings produced within CRC 1342, as well as from external colleagues.

This series welcomes studies on the waves, ruptures and transformative periods of welfare state expansion and retrenchment globally, that is, across nation states and the world as well as across history since the inception of the modern Western welfare state in the nineteenth century. It takes a comprehensive and globalized perspective on social policy, and the approach will help to locate and explain episodes of retrenchment, austerity, and tendencies toward de-welfarization in particular countries, policy areas and/or social risk-groups by reference to prior, simultaneous or anticipated episodes of expansion or contraction in other countries, areas, and risks.

One of the aims of this series is to address the different constellations that emerge between political and economic actors including international and intergovernmental organizations, political actors and bodies, and business enterprises. A better understanding of these dynamics improves the reader’s grasp of social policy making, social policy outputs, and ultimately the outcomes of social policy.

The editors of the series are the CRC 1342 members Lorraine Frisina Doetter, Delia González de Reufels and Kerstin Martens, as well as Marianne Ulriksen (University of Southern Denmark/University of Johannesburg).


Contact:
Dr. Lorraine Frisina Doetter
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58561
E-Mail: frisina@uni-bremen.de

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
E-Mail: dgr@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Kerstin Martens
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67498
E-Mail: martensk@uni-bremen.de

Prof Dr Frank Nullmeier at the Bundestag Committee for Labour and Social Affairs
Prof Dr Frank Nullmeier at the Bundestag Committee for Labour and Social Affairs
CRC member Frank Nullmeier was consulted as an expert in the Bundestag Committee for Labour and Social Affairs as to whether proposals of the opposition parties were suitable for tackling old-age poverty.

The political discussions about a basic pension as an instrument against poverty in old age are gaining momentum. Even before the Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, presented a draft law, the four opposition parties each presented their own basic pension concepts to the Bundestag. On Monday, experts were heard in the Bundestag Committee for Labour and Social Affairs, including Frank Nullmeier of the Collaborative Research Centre Global Dynamics of Social Policy.

The central topic of the hearings was whether poverty should be tackled within the statutory pension insurance system or in the area of basic income support. The latter had been proposed by the AfD and the FDP. A major objection to this was that this would extend the basic pension to more and more pensioners, so that a kind of 'combined pension' would be created from the basic pension and contribution-based pension - with negative consequences for the legitimacy and acceptance of the statutory pension insurance. Because: "In the basic security system, the principle of needs-based justice applies; in the social security system, a principle of entitlement to benefits applies", said Nullmeier. "We must separate the two from each other and not mix the legal entitlements. Mixing them up is a great danger - for social cohesion and the legimitation basis of the statutory pension insurance system. The legimitation of the statutory pension insurance would be endangered if long-standing contributors were not "free from the proximity to poverty in old age and to receiving basic income support", said Nullmeier. This problem must be addressed and this would not be achieved by a combined solution, but only by improving the statutory pension insurance system. "If the labour market creates wages that are too low, you can either change the wage system - the minimum wage provides for this - or you have to create systems that are part of the statutory pension insurance system and follow the tradition of pension according to minimum income and pension according to minimum wage credits (Mindestentgeltpunkten)".

The hearing also made clear that an organisational link between basic income and pension would only lead to double bureaucracies and would not allow administrative relief. Against these solutions stood models of raising the incomes of all pensioners to a level above the poverty risk threshold through a new, comfortable form of basic security with correspondingly high financial burdens (Die Linke) and a solution purely within the pension insurance system through an increase in the pensions of all insured persons with more than 30 years of insurance contributions to a pension corresponding to 30 wage credits (Bündnis90/Die Grünen). This would eliminate the need for a basic pension.

The Deutsche Bundestags shares May 6th hearing at the Bundestag Committee for Labour and Social Affairs as a video stream (in German only).


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58576
E-Mail: frank.nullmeier@uni-bremen.de