Introducing social protection in the Middle East: Prospects for a new social contract?

Markus Loewe, Rana Jawad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The introductory article of this special issue looks at the genesis, characteristics and challenges of social protection schemes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It argues that social protection policies in the MENA should be seen as a key ingredient of the social contract that governments offered to their citizens after independence. To compensate for the lack of political participation and accountability, free public health and education systems, generous food, energy and water subsidies, social insurance and assistance schemes and mass public‐sector employment were established. This was possible because MENA countries benefitted from substantial windfall profits (from the export of oil, gas and minerals; Suez Canal user fees), as well as from income from remittances from migrant workers and income from politically motivated aid. The decline of income from some of these sources and population growth has led MENA governments to focus more closely their social protection spending on strategically important social groups: typically, the urban upper middle class. As a result, social protection systems in MENA countries currently suffer from severe weaknesses in terms of social fairness, efficiency and sustainability. Although MENA countries still spend a very considerable share of gross domestic product on their social protection schemes, these have only very limited effects on the reduction of poverty, vulnerability and inequality – and some even exhibit perverse “bottom‐up” redistributive outcomes. The articles that comprise this special issue selectively spotlight a number of opportunities and challenges for the development of sustainable social protection in the MENA countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Social Security Review
Volume71
Issue number2
Early online date8 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

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North Africa
East Africa
Middle East
income
social assistance
social insurance
migrant worker
gross domestic product
public education
political participation
Social contract
Social protection
Middle East and North Africa
fee
population growth
fairness
subsidy
education system
middle class
public sector

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Introducing social protection in the Middle East: Prospects for a new social contract? / Loewe, Markus; Jawad, Rana.

In: International Social Security Review, Vol. 71, No. 2, 01.06.2018, p. 3-18.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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