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Against a backdrop of existing political and financial anxieties, COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities globally. We invite papers that explore the politics of social protection at the juncture between old and new forces, focusing on design debates, financing challenges, and populist pressures.
Despite decades of effort to increase coverage and expenditure on social protection, including cash transfer programmes, over 4 billion people still remain systematically unprotected (ILO, 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic revealed and exacerbated these inequalities, with the poorest and the most vulnerable suffering disproportionately. Although governments responded with unprecedented horizontal and vertical expansions of social protection worldwide, their efforts were mediated by existing political institutions and degree of infrastructural (un)preparedness (Gentilini et al., 2020). In this panel, we will explore the politics of social protection at the juncture between old forces and new pressures in unsettled times.
There has been increased interest in universal basic income, although this remains a controversial policy proposal. Discussions about precarity of employment and income—caused by the pandemic but also the fourth industrial revolution—have gained traction. Debates surrounding universalism vs. targeting, financing challenges, debt restructuring, and democratic pressures from populist forces have also come to the fore.
Against a backdrop of pre-existing political trends, we invite contributions from a range of theoretical perspectives that critically engage with, but need not be limited to, the following questions and topics:
• What are the political opportunities and challenges for social protection created by the pandemic, including implications for universal vs. targeted schemes?
• How are elections and/or regressive political trends, such as populism, influencing social protection agendas and priorities?
• What do the growing financial challenges, including debt defaults and pandemic-linked recession, mean for social protection financing? What role do donors play here?