A Global Dismantling of Progressive Social Policy: Reversing the Social Turn

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Gabriele KOEHLER, UNRISD senior research associate, Germany
The social turn, starting in the 1990s, accelerated in the 2000’s. It brought a significant rise and spread in regulation around progressive social policies, especially in the area of social protection. Over 100 countries adopted varied forms of social transfers. In South Asia, six countries adopted social assistance policies, and China, after its policy retrogressions of the 1980s, re-introduced a minimum income guarantee and health insurance. The SAARC and ASEAN introduced regional social policy agreements. At the global level, the ILO was able to adopt a reasonably strong commitment to a universal, unconditional social protection floor with its Recommendation 202 of 2012. Regarding decent work, too, some regulatory policy progress was made (e.g. ILO Homework Convention of 1996, ILO Domestic Workers Convention of 2011). After this ‘golden age’ of global social policy, we are now confronted by a - seemingly global - rollback of progressive national social policy regulation and practice The aim of the paper is fourfold: 1) to offer an overview of reversals in progressive social policy regulation in a range of countries, particularly in the Asian region; 2) to attempt an explanation of the earlier success of the social turn; 3) from that explanation, to try to uncover the factors that are enabling its current reversal; and 4) based on positive counter-examples, to compile ideas for progressive regional-level (with a focus on Asia) and global policy advocacy and regulatory provisions to protect, defend and transform the (eco)social turn.