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2024 | Book

The Political Economy of Divergent Welfare States in the Global South

The Case of South Africa and Mauritius

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About this book

This study traces the welfare regimes of Mauritius and South Africa from the early 20th century focusing on the historical circumstances that gave rise to the dominance of state-funded old-age pensions within their respective welfare frameworks. It highlights intersections between powerful business interests, the state, and social forces that sowed the seeds of social entitlements. Due to different mobilisation efforts of these social actors, both countries have spawned welfare regimes of different persuasions. Mauritius has maintained its long-standing traditions as a social democracy stretching back to the late 1950s, while South Africa continues relentlessly in pursuit of a liberal welfare state, a journey it has treaded since 1928 when the old-age pension laws first came into effect. While unravelling the innermost workings of welfare state development in Mauritius and South Africa, it also probes the present political and economic circumstances that have kept these two welfare regimes resolutely unchanged. Against this backdrop, it draws parallels between current welfare outcomes and those of old as they continue to chart their way into the future.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter
Chapter 1. Introduction: Historical Antecedents Behind Remarkable Variance in Social Policy Outcomes in South Africa and Mauritius
Abstract
This chapter peels away the layers of history to account for welfare divergence in South Africa and Mauritius across different historical epochs. It paints the character of the universal welfare state in Mauritius and means-tested approach in South Africa to draw connections between historical forces that continue to have a bearing on their current social policy dispositions. The social security systems of the two societies are cast into sharp focus, with old-age pensions taking the centre stage as potent symbols of state commitment to the social reform agenda. The political ramifications of their existence are brought to the fore, with social forces providing a background reference point from which to understand their unique existence as divergent welfare states.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 2. A Tale of Two Countries: Theoretical and Analytical Framework in Comparative Social Inquiry
Abstract
This chapter considers the theoretical foundations behind welfare divergence in Mauritius and South Africa. It introduces institutionalism and structuralism as theoretical departure points from which to account for strengths and limitations of democratic systems in relation to social forces that acted as agents of social change. It answers salient questions around the differences in welfare outcomes in the two societies despite their strong democratic roots. Not only are these theories relied upon to demonstrate the limits of democracy in engendering social change, they also demonstrate the transformative effect of cross-class mobilisation on social policy outcomes. The same theories reveal the extent to which policy choices can be reinforced overtime in democracies provided ceteris paribus conditions are in place.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 3. South Africa and Mauritius in a Macro-Causal Social Inquiry
Abstract
Comparative historical research plays a vital role bringing to the surface the roots of welfare divergence in Mauritius and South Africa. As nascent welfare states, they were pioneering in their own right as South Africa invented state-funded safety nets ahead of the rest of the world while Mauritius invented Africa’s first universal pensions. While the two welfare regimes differ in size, this chapter makes a case for comparison, with the focus placed on the mobilisation efforts of the cross-class movement. Relying on John Stuart Mill’s Methods of Comparison, the focus is placed on dissimilar social policy outcomes these social actors engendered. Thus, the method of difference is presented as a reliable explanatory tool to bring these dynamics into intelligible perspective.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 4. State-Building and the Making of the Racially “Exclusive” Welfare State in South Africa
Abstract
This chapter recounts the development of the welfare state in South Africa since the turn of the twentieth century. It reveals the circumstances surrounding the creation of the first-ever state-funded social safety net with ties to the political revulsions of the early 1920s in the mines. The poor white problem provided fertile ground for social security to enter the political fray and consequently cement their existence as integral to the relationship between the state and the white population. Old-age pensions emerged out of these contestations between the working class and mining industry albeit taking a means-tested form. Blacks would not feature as immediate beneficiaries until 1940s with an expenditure budget lower than that for whites. This remained unchanged until 1993 when equalisation came into effect.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 5. State-Building and the Emergence of a Social Democratic Consensus in Colonial Mauritius, 1598–1968
Abstract
In tracing Mauritius’s welfare state experience during the colonial period, three considerations are paramount: (a) the political structure of the colonial state, (b) the make-up of a sugar-based economy and (c) the social reform movement from below. As British colony at the mercy of rudimentary poor laws dictated from Whitehall and an exploitative economy, Mauritius was ripe for a social revolution. They opened the floodgates of debate on social reforms, consequently setting the country on a path towards democracy. Means-tested old-age pensions followed these processes before taking on a more universal form a few years later. The power realignments that emerged had an abiding effect on cementing the pro-poor agenda into the nation’s consciousness well beyond colonial rule.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 6. Retaining the Social Democratic Welfare Consensus in Post-colonial Mauritius, 1968–Present
Abstract
Although colonial rule in Mauritius came to an end in 1968, the social reform agenda continued unabated in the period after. So deeply were universal pensions entrenched in the nation’s consciousness they became political trump cards that had disastrous political consequences for the incumbent if tampered with. Prompted by unemployment and stunted growth, its economy quickly diversified for the express aim of keeping the welfare state alive. Although old-age pensions marked the starting point of the universal welfare commitment in Mauritius, their retention after independence, as well as the political significance they carried, provided a framework for managing future economic shocks such as those precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Here the universal welfare state exists not only in name, but in practice.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 7. State (Re)-Building and Welfare State Development in Post-apartheid South Africa
Abstract
Welfare state-building in post-apartheid South Africa is characterised by the refusal to shed the liberal-oriented outlook inherited from the previous regime with a hindering effect towards expansive social reforms. While free of the racist dictates of the apartheid regime, it adopted an unrelenting attitude to a social reform agenda of a means-tested variety with the old-age pension system taking pole position. Crucial in all of this is the role played by voices from below whose divided and fragmented existence became less effective in spurring the post-apartheid society on a more egalitarian path. Thanks to this lack of unity, they are yet to exploit the political significance of social safety nets by demanding a universal welfare state as a broad-based movement championing a common cause.
Elias Phaahla
Chapter 8. Welfare Paradigms of South Africa and Mauritius: Reflections and Prospects for Future Research
Abstract
This chapter brings the lessons learned in this study into a conclusion. It identifies the two welfare states in Mauritius and South Africa as social democracies and developmental welfare state, respectively. The latter is beholden to universal principles akin to those in Scandinavia, while the former is modelled on the liberal welfare state similar to those in the Anglo-Saxon Commonwealth. The seeds of divergence are embedded in the make-up of their economies, which were tamed differently despite sharing a liberal orientation. South Africa’s own is shown to have adopted liberalism wholesale, while that of Mauritius continues in its heterodox form. This disparity could not have spawned more different outcomes as the broad-based movement in both countries varyingly conditioned the commanding heights of the economy.
Elias Phaahla
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
The Political Economy of Divergent Welfare States in the Global South
Author
Elias Phaahla
Copyright Year
2024
Electronic ISBN
978-3-031-50450-1
Print ISBN
978-3-031-50449-5
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-50450-1