Ellen Ehmke

Kurzexposé zur Dissertation von Ellen Ehmke

Welfare Development in Developing Countries - Evidence from Recent Indian Social Security Reforms

As much as 80 per cent of the global population have no adequate access to social security. The right to social security as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (Articles 22, 25), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 9) and as codified in a number of conventions of the ILO (most prominently in Convention Nr. 102, 1952) is far from being realised. Although, the lack of social security is a global phenomenon, it is most widespread in many developing countries where the access to social protection schemes is limited despite the fact that the need is great given the prevailing levels of deprivation, of poverty and of hunger.

Disproving popular believes, virtually every country in the world has some social security system, but in particular in the Global South we find low coverage rates and limited access. This raises a number of questions as to why welfare programmes are confined to small groups or otherwise fail to ensure a greater degree of social security for the majority of the population. And, they form the background of the proposed PhD thesis, which shall focus on the identification of factors for the successful extension of social security in the Global South.

A country that constitutes an interesting case for such a study in more than just one respect is India. It is without doubt one of the countries in the world where an extension of at least basic social security is most needed as it is home to a third of the world’s absolute poor. The issue of prevailing poverty and a lack of social security for the biggest part of the population has been taken up on national level by the current United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under the leadership of the Indian National Congress Party (INC, or Congress), which first came to power in 2004. The government introduced a number of new social security schemes and policies during its first term, most notably the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), a health insurance card for the population below the poverty line, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Joyna (RSBY), and the Unorganised Sector Social Security Bill (USSSB). The UPA goverment was reelected in 2009 and some of its electoral success has been attributed to the success of NREGS. This said, although the central government has put considerable emphasis in the roll out especially of NREGS and provided ample financial resources, the degree by which it has been taken up on state and local level varies considerably. It is the conviction of this thesis, that a careful study of the factors that explain the variance in the coverage rates and accessibility of NREGS, and potentially also other recent social security reform projects, cannot only bring new light into the understanding of the working of these schemes, but also make a valuable contribution to the broader debate on social security extension in the developing world.

The study will thus be build upon the comparison between 2-3 Indian states and potentially smaller administrative units within these states. In a first step, the potential explanatory hypotheses will be further elaborated in the context of recent research on welfare development in developing countries (i.e. the work of Ian Gough and Geoff Wood). Secondly, the cases for the study will be selected based on aggregate data and qualitative information. Thirdly, an in-depth qualitative study of political structures, actors and power relations in the selected states will be conducted. In a field trip to India the hypotheses shall be tested and more information shall be gathered. These shall inform the conclusion of the proposed thesis.  

( e.e[at]fu-berlin.de )

Für ihre Dissertation erhielt sie den Georg-Foster-Preis 2017 für herausragende wissenschaftliche Leistungen.