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Colonialism and the Emergence of Social Policy in the Global South: A North-South Story

18 November 2020

Carina Schmitt gave a talk on "Colonialism and the Emergence of Social Policy in the Global South: A North-South Story" at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, Germany.


Social protection is a central instrument to fight poverty and inequality in the Global South. Today, almost all countries have at least some social protection schemes in place. In former colonies, the historical roots of these systems can often be traced back to colonial times. In this talk, Carina Schmitt argues that spending on social services for the local population was seen as a necessary condition to expand the trade-based colonial economy especially in the initial stage of social services dating back to the interwar period. Using novel data on health and education expenditure in former British and French African colonies during the height of their empires (1925-36), she shows that trade volumes account for a large share in the variance of expenditure on early social protection schemes. The results suggest that similar mechanisms are at play within the two empires and differences between them are in degree rather than in kind. Moreover, she emphasizes that the expansion of colonialism, capitalism and social protection are processes highly intertwined. Colonial relations between North and South are not only decisive for explaining the emergence of social protection in former colonies but also in the metropoles themselves.

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