Social protection in the Middle East and North Africa: not fair, not efficient, not effective

Dr. Markus Loewe, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Social protection schemes have a triple function in the development process: social, economic and political. Their social function is to prevent and reduce poverty and inequality. The economic function is to reduce risk and thereby encourage people to become economically active, invest and ultimately generate employment and growth. And the political function is to promote social inclusion and cohesion and thereby stabilize state and society. Social protection schemes must, however, meet a number of conditions to fully fulfil these three functions. This chapter explores this assumption with reference to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It argues that most social protection systems of MENA countries are not effective: In particular, they tend to fail fulfilling their economic and social functions. At utmost, they take their political function – but only to the degree that this is in line with the interests of the political regimes in the region. Social protection schemes in MENA countries tend to suffer from limited coverage in terms of people, risks and compensation levels. They tend to redistribute bottom up rather than progressively. They tend to be segmented and thereby replicate the existing stratification of society. And they tend to care mainly for the politically influential urban middle classes rather than the poor, the self-employed or informal sector workers. This finding constitutes a challenge for development co-operation, as well, which is meant to support countries that are unable to implement dearly needed reforms on their own but cannot do much if governments are unwilling to implement these reforms. 

About the speaker

Markus Loewe is research team leader at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Bonn, where he has been working since 1999. He studied economics, political science and Arabic in Tübingen, Erlangen and Damascus and got his PhD for a thesis on micro-insurance in Heidelberg. In 2015, he declined the offer of a chair in economics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. His main areas of interest include social protection, poverty reduction / MDGs and the promotion of small and medium enterprises in developing countries. In addition, he has also published on demographic development, inclusive / pro-poor growth, anti-corruption policies, investment promotion, industrial policies and the impact of the recent global financial and economic crisis. His regional focus is the Middle East and North Africa region. Markus Loewe published extensively on social protection but also on enterprise development and state-business relations. 

Venue: Conference room (0.16 & 0.17)

Date: 26 October 2017

Time: 12:00 - 13:00  CET