This spring, major protests swept through Jordan over economic grievances and subsidy reforms. In July, protestors took to the streets in the south of Iraq, demanding that the government address persistent unemployment, underdevelopment, and corruption. Meanwhile, earlier in 2018, Tunisians launched a wave of protests to oppose tax hikes on basic goods and increased cost of living. Such highly politicized responses to social policy concerns are the norm rather than the exception across the Middle East and North Africa.
Social policy is where most citizens actually encounter the state and where policy most impacts peoples’ lives. As such, social policy and, more generally, welfare regimes, deserve a more central place in political science research on the region, as they have in the broader discipline.
On April 20, 2018, POMEPS and the Harvard Middle East Initiative, led by Tarek Masoud, convened a workshop with a dozen scholars from around the world to discuss theoretical and policy issues related to social policy in the Middle East. The diverse, multidisciplinary group of scholars at the workshop addressed these questions from multiple perspectives. By probing the conditions under which reform occurs or may occur, the essays in POMEPS Studies 31, Social Policy in the Middle East and North Africa emphasize both possibilities for and persistent obstacles to change and underscore the deeply political nature of social policy reform.
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