Workshop at the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill, USA
April 7-8, 2011

This workshop will examine how new social risks connected to processes of change in the economic and occupational sphere are matched by changes in the social protection systems of Western Europe and Latin America. In particular, it will examine ability (or lack thereof) of social policy to protect or compensate the non-retired population from exposure to risks of poverty, “atypical” and less regulated or non regulated forms of employment. In Western Europe a hot issue concerns how increasing dualization in the labor market, that is divisions between insiders and outsiders – with the former enjoying higher employment continuity and higher wages than the latter - is being reproduced in social protection as the insiders receive generous benefits and the outsiders receive (when eligible) benefits of lower value and for shorter duration. In Latin America the issue of increasing informality is widely debated, while the term itself is still ambiguous, insofar as the literature focuses on at least two different understandings of informality: a productivistic understanding, denoting workers employed without any written contract, or self-employed, or employed within the family; and a legalistic understanding, denoting those workers who are not covered by either employment protection legislation, or by social protection legislation, or both. While the empirical referents of the two understandings of informality tend to overlap, it is important to distinguish them clearly in analytical terms.

As it is crucial for comparability purposes, a first goal of the workshop concerns the analytical dimension, aiming to grasp differences and commonalities between Western European and Latin American countries with reference to the “new social risks” and “dualization”. What do these concepts imply in the two geographical areas? A second objective is to track policy responses and trajectories aimed at tackling new forms of poverty (for the non retired population) and risks related to labor market participation and unemployment. Third, attention must be paid to the specific mechanisms of policy change, stressing the relevance not only of pre-existing institutions in a broad sense (policy legacies, market, family, etc.) but also the role of agency in such transformation process. Which are the major actors involved in policy making? Do new social risks lead to new forms of social and political mobilization? How do these affect the reform process as well its outputs?   

Against this background, invited papers deal with case studies, or two-country comparisons in the same geographical area, focusing on social policy responses to increased risks in the fields of measures to combat poverty and income-maintenance measures for the non-retired who are not in employment. Their scope should extend to the economic crisis and measures to counteract its social consequences. As mentioned above, a section should be devoted to agency, identifying what actors mobilized to promote (or oppose) policy changes, and for what reasons. While this section could certainly focus on party politics, this needs not be an exclusive focus, as the role of social actors can prove as (or more) relevant as (than) that of hardcore political actors.

Those interested in attending or advertising the workshop are encouraged to download the conference program (PDF)

The papers section of this website is password-protected. Workshop attendees may request the username and password via email to Charles Olbert (