We hire a PostDoc/ Project Leader and Doctoral Student for Research Project on Digitalization and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries

For the project PolDigWork – Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries, financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), we are looking for a 1) PostDoc/ Project Leader and a 2) Doctoral Student.

1) Scientific Coordinator/Postdoctoral Researcher (f/m/d)
Pay Category E 13 TV-L (100 %)

Area of Responsibility

  • scientific coordination of the project “PolDigWork – Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • design of basic elements of the project such as the theoretical framework, the research design, the methodology and the data collection of the project
  • conduct scientific research as part of the research project, including data collection and fieldwork
  • taking over the organizational and financial aspects of the project management including the organization of project events

The above-mentioned project work offers the possibility of further scientific qualification (e. g. habilitation) in the subject area of the project.

What we expect

  • successfully completed (at least good) academic university studies (Diplom/MA/ state examination) in public policy, social sciences, business administration/economics or computer sciences/IT
  • completed doctorate in one of the mentioned fields
  • knowledge in the field of digitalization and its social and political consequences
  • sensitivity to research in non-European contexts
  • mastery of social science methods (qualitative or quantitative); examples: Survey research, quantitative content and network analysis, or qualitative methods such as field research and interview techniques
  • fluency in written and spoken English
  • additional familiarity with one of the languages spoken in the respective countries (Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia, Zulu/Afrikaans)
  • knowledge of German is recommended, but not mandatory

Other desirable skills and experience

  • ability to work in a team
  • work experience in an international and culturally diverse environment

What we offer

The University of Erfurt promotes the compatibility of career and family/private life. To this end, it offers flexible working hours and various opportunities for further training. In addition, there are a number of health and prevention offers as part of the company health management.


The German version of this job advertisement alone shall be legally binding.

The position is limited to 3 years in accordance with the project approval. The advertisement is addressed to applicants who fulfill the requirements of the German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz). The general requirements for employment according to § 91 section 5 Thuringian Higher Education Act (Thüringer Hochschulgesetz) apply.

If you have a foreign university degree, it is necessary that you apply for a certificate application at the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen, ZAB) and attach the corresponding certificate to your application documents. Please note that this is a chargeable service provided by the ZAB. For more information, please visit www.kmk.org/zab/zeugnisbewertung.

The University of Erfurt is committed to diversity and gender equality. It has been audited as a “family-friendly university” and has received the rating “equality excellent” in the female professor programme. One of the university’s strategic goals is increasing the proportion of women in research and teaching. Qualified female scientists are therefore particularly encouraged to apply. Severely disabled persons and those with equal status are given preference in the case of equal suitability, professional performance, and ability.

Part-time employment is possible in principle. The extent to which a part-time request can be met, particularly with regard to the location and scope of the part-time work, must be examined on a case-by-case basis.

For questions regarding content, please contact Prof. Dr. Achim Kemmerling (e-mail: achim.kemmerling@uni-erfurt.de).

Application and Deadline

Please send your application with informative documents (cover letter, curriculum vitae, copies of degrees and certificates, list of publications, presentations if applicable) exclusively online by 06.03.2023 via the application management system of the University of Erfurt.

Further Information: https://jobs.uni-erfurt.de/jobposting/4c189afc0282356934188f4f7688e6e91b8bb8ca0

2) Scientific Project Assistant (f/m/d)
Pay Category E 13 TV-L (65 %)

Area of Responsibility

  • participation in the project “PolDigWork – Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • contribute to basic elements of the project, such as the theoretical framework, the project’s research design/methodology, and the data collection process
  • undertake work packages of the project including country case studies and data collection
  • conduct project research, including data collection and field research
  • participate in the organizational and financial aspects of project administration, including the organization of project events

With the above-mentioned project work, there is an opportunity for own further scientific qualification (e. g. PhD) in the subject area of the project.

What we expect

  • successfully completed (at least good) academic university studies (Diplom/MA/state examination) in public policy, social sciences, business administration/economics or computer sciences/IT
  • interest in the topic of digitalization, especially its social and political consequences
  • sensitivity to research in non-European contexts
  • mastery of social science methods (qualitative or quantitative) or willingness to learn them; examples: Survey research, quantitative content and network analysis, or qualitative methods such as field research and interview techniques
  • fluency in written and spoken English
  • additional familiarity with one of the languages spoken in the respective countries (Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia, Zulu/Afrikaans)
  • German is recommended, but not mandatory

Other desirable skills and experience

  • ability to work in a team environment
  • ability to adapt to an international and culturally diverse environment

What we offer

The University of Erfurt promotes the compatibility of career and family/private life. To this end, it offers flexible working hours and various opportunities for further training. In addition, there are a number of health and prevention offers as part of the company health management.


The German version of this job advertisement alone shall be legally binding.

The position is limited to 3 years in accordance with the project approval. The advertisement is addressed to applicants who fulfill the requirements of the German Act on Temporary Scientific Contracts (Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz). The general requirements for employment according to § 91 section 5 Thuringian Higher Education Act (Thüringer Hochschulgesetz) apply.

If you have a foreign university degree, it is necessary that you apply for a certificate application at the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen, ZAB) and attach the corresponding certificate to your application documents. Please note that this is a chargeable service provided by the ZAB. For more information, please visit www.kmk.org/zab/zeugnisbewertung.

Further Information: https://jobs.uni-erfurt.de/jobposting/ca0400f30006d8ef4670a7cee70e1d9e10bd1f010

For more information about the project see here:

In English

In Spanish

In Bahasa Indonesia


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New Article on Development Aid and Regional Inequality in Pre-Coup Myanmar

After years of trial and error, we, i.e. Matteo Fumagalli and I, finally got this article out (send me a DM on twitter if you need an ungated version). It is an analysis of the relationship between official development aid of major donor countries and organizations and internal regional inequality in Myanmar. As we are cutoff from the country since last year’s horrenduous military coup, our analysis is mainly for the transition regime 2011-2021, but we think it holds valuable lessons for the country and perhaps also similar cases.

We use several empirical sources: data on night-time luminosity to measure regional inequality between Burmese core regions and the ‘periphery’; DAC data on aid flows to the Myanmar from all donors; interviews with representatives of donors and other key informants; as well as a mini-case study on higher education reform in Myanmar.

We look at donors’ reactions to the explosion of regional inequality in the country. It is noticeable that from 1992 onwards (first available satellite data) and, especially from 2008 onwards with the economic and political opening, there is a tremendous imbalance between economic activity in the Burmese mainland and the rest of the country.

own graph (see paper for details) showing night-time lights for regions and states in Myanmar (year 2012).

Donors struggled to keep up with this explosion of regional inequality. To a certain degree the share of aid flows that goes to the rest of the country has increased, but it is still dwarfed by flows to the Burmese mainland, and the central government in particular.

own graph (see paper for details) of aid flows to Myanmar states and regions between 1995-2015

We identify several reactions to this problem. Some donors, such as Japan, have chosen the technocratic ‘route’: delivering aid to the rural more isolated regions, but mainly in the form of infrastructure and agricultural projects and not really considering the social and political implications of such aid. Other donors such as the United Kingdom directly address political and social topics, e.g. the Rohingya crisis, but then hit heavy resistance from parts of the hybrid democratic-military regime at the time.

We also draw on our own, naturally somewhat biased and limited experience. We were part of a project of the Open Society Foundation contributing to the reform of the higher education system from 2011 onwards. We realized that it was very hard to deal with a recipient government that was adamant about keeping higher education centralized and focussed on one or two elite universities. If spillover to other regions happened it was mainly indirectly and informally.

While we do not have a ‘magic solution’ for this dilemma it would be good for major donors to acknowledge the enormous problems of regional disparities more directly and also to think about strategies that deal with these problems. For instance, we believe that Germany withdrawing its commitment in Myanmar before the coup, foresake the little bargaining space it had with the hybrid regime before the coup, let alone a way to help remoter, conflict-ridden parts of the country nowadays. See also here for a policy paper written by Matteo.

We are grateful to many people, especially in Myanmar, but also to colleagues who gave us comments. We also acknowledge funding from the British Arts and Humanities Council, the Open Society Foundation, the University of Erfurt and the Thyssen Foundation.

We also learned a lot during the reviewing process. Mixing several different methods and empirical sources made us vulnerable to criticisms from all academic perspectives. While this was painful at times, and considerably delayed the publication of the article, we also acknowledge the problems of Western ‘development experts’ writing on other countries. We hope we stroke a good balance between transparency in our biases and acknowledging our debts.

Dedicated to the brave people in Myanmar.

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Proyek Penelitian Baru: Politik dan Masa Depan Pekerjaan (Future of Work) di Negara Berpenghasilan Menengah (PolDigWork).

German Science Foundation (DFG) menyetujui proposal riset yang diajukan Achim Kemmerling yang berjudul “Politik dan Masa Depan Pekerjaan (Future of Work) di Negara Berpenghasilan Menengah (PolDigWork). Bagaimana Harapan dan Ketakutan terhadap Digitalisasi Membentuk Opini tentang Kebijakan Sosial dan Ketenagakerjaan.” Proyek ini mengamati dampak sosial dan politik dari digitalisasi dan otomatisasi pasar tenaga kerja di beberapa negara-negara berpenghasilan menengah. Selama tiga tahun, tim peneliti akan menggunakan pendekatan metode campuran dengan komponen survei asli yang dikombinasikan dengan analisis jaringan sosial serta studi kasus dari Meksiko, Afrika Selatan, dan Indonesia.

Judul Proyek Penelitian: Politik dan Masa Depan Pekerjaan (Future of Work) di Negara Berpenghasilan Menengah (PolDigWork). Bagaimana Harapan dan Ketakutan terhadap Digitalisasi Membentuk Opini tentang Kebijakan Sosial dan Ketenagakerjaan

Ringkasan proyek yang diusulkan:

Masa depan pekerjaan (Future of Work) memiliki implikasi yang sangat besar bagi politik dan kebijakan (utama) negara kesejahteraan, terutama kebijakan sosial dan kebijakan pasar tenaga kerja. Bentuk baru digitalisasi dan otomatisasi membentuk kembali cara masyarakat ‘bekerja’. Inovasi seperti bot dan robot mengubah sifat pekerjaan dan menciptakan jenis pekerjaan baru (seperti kerja gig atau gig work) dan sektor-sektor ekonomi. Mereka juga menghilangkan pekerjaan yang ada, mengotomatisasi tugas-tugas, dan membuat seluruh cabang ekonomi menjadi tidak berguna lagi. Ilmuwan sosial dan politik mulai memahami proses dan hasil transformasi ini di negara-negara industri maju. Namun, kita masih mengetahui relatif sedikit tentang konsekuensi politik dari masa depan pekerjaan di negara-negara berpenghasilan menengah. Apakah ketakutan dan harapan tentang digitalisasi membentuk ulang opini masyarakat dan elit politik tentang kebijakan sosial dan ketenagakerjaan? Dan apakah kedua hal tersebut membuat pembelahan yang ada seperti perbedaan antara sektor formal dan informal menjadi lebih kuat atau bahkan sebaliknya? Dengan menggunakan metode campuran dan analisis studi kasus tersarang dari Meksiko, Afrika Selatan dan Indonesia, riset ini akan menjawab pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut. Proyek penelitian ini menggabungkan temuan dari survei-survei sebelumnya dengan eksperimen survei asli di tiga negara tersebut. Temuan-temuan ini kemudian akan dikontraskan dengan hasil dari analisis isi media sosial dan dengan informasi dari wawancara para ahli. Penggunaan pendekatan komparatif dalam proyek ini akan memungkinkan kita untuk memahami bagaimana digitalisasi bekerja dalam masyarakat yang memiliki perbedaan mencolok. Akankah digitalisasi menciptakan jurang pemisah baru, memperkuat perbedaan yang telah ada, atau bahkan menguranginya? Oleh karena itu, penelitian ini akan memberikan sumbangsih terhadap literatur dan teori mengenai pembagian dan pembelahan sosial di negara-negara berpenghasilan menengah. Pertanyaan-pertanyaan di atas dan proses-proses yang mendasarinya lebih sulit untuk diamati di negara-negara seperti Jerman, di mana informalitas kurang menonjol, namun masih memiliki persoalan signifikan dalam menghadapi digitalisasi. Dengan demikian, riset ini akan menghasilkan pemahaman yang mendalam tidak hanya untuk negara-negara/kawasan yang diteliti melainkan juga di luarnya.

Terima kasih kepada Teuku Harza Mauludi atas terjemahannya

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Nuevo proyecto de investigación: Política y el Futuro del Trabajo en Paises con Medios Recursos:

La Fundación Alemana de Investigación (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) accepta propuesta de investigación de Achim Kemmerling, Gerhard Haniel Profesor de Políticas Públicas y Desarrollo Internaciónal, Brandt School, Universidad de Erfurt, Alemania. El proyecto tiene el título “Política y el Futuro del Trabajo en Paises con Medios Recursos. ¿Cómo influyen esperanzas y miedos  las opiniones sobre políticas laborales y sociales”. El proyecto durará tres años y incluye financiamiento para una posición PostDoc y una para un estudiante de doctorado (las plazas se anunciarán en unas semanas).

Resumen del proyecto:

El futuro de trabajo tiene consequencias enormes para la politica de los estados de bienestar, y las políticas laborales y sociales. Nuevas formas de digitalización y automatización reconfiguran cómo se trabaja en la sociedad. Innovaciones como bots y robots cambian la naturaleza del trabajo y crean nuevas formas del trabajo (p. Ej. Gig work) y nuevos sectores económicos. También destruyen trabajos porque automatizan tareas humanas y hacen redundantes sectores económicos.  Sociólogos y politólogos comienzan a comprender los procesos y resultados de esta transformación en los países industrializados avanzados. Sin embargo, en el caso de los países de renta media, todavía sabemos relativamente poco sobre las consecuencias políticas del futuro del trabajo. ¿Los temores y las esperanzas sobre la digitalización modifican las opiniones de los ciudadanos y de las élites políticas sobre las políticas sociales y laborales? ¿Y hacen más fuertes o más débiles los clivajes existentes, como la diferencia entre los sectores formal e informal?

Este proyecto emplea métodos mixtos y un análisis de estudios de caso en México, Sudáfrica e Indonesia. Combina los resultados de las encuestas existentes con un survey experiment original en los tres países. Estas conclusiones se contrastarán con los resultados de un análisis de contenido de los medios de comunicación social y con la información de las entrevistas a expertos. Gracias a su enfoque comparativo, el proyecto nos permitirá comprender cómo funciona la digitalización en sociedades en las que se observan diferentes clivajes. ¿Provocará la digitalización nuevas divisiones, reforzará las ya existentes o incluso las mitigará? El proyecto contribuirá, por tanto, a la literatura y las teorías sobre las divisiones y los clivajes en los países de renta media. Estas cuestiones y los procesos subyacentes son más difíciles de observar en países como Alemania, donde la informalidad es menos destacada, pero sigue siendo un problema importante frente a la digitalización. Por lo tanto, el proyecto creará perspectivas incluso más allá de los países/regiones estudiados.

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New Research Project on Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries

Photo credit: Desola Lanre Ologun (via Unsplash)

Teaser: The German Science Foundation (DFG) accepts Achim Kemmerling’s proposed project “Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries (PolDigWork). How Hopes and Fears about Digitalization Shape Opinions on Social and Labour Policies.” The project looks at the social and political impact of digitalization and automation for labour markets in selected middle-income countries. For three years, a team will employ a mixed methods approach with an original survey component combined with social network analysis as well as case studies from Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia.

The prestigious German Science Foundation (DFG) has accepted Achim Kemmerling’s proposed project with the title “Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries (PolDigWork). How Hopes and Fears about Digitalization Shape Opinions on Social and Labour Policies.”  The project will run for three years and includes financing for a PostDoc and a doctoral position.

Project Title: Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries (PolDigWork). How Hopes and Fears about Digitalization Shape Opinions on Social and Labour Policies.

Summary of the proposed project:

The future of work has enormous implications for the politics and (core) policies of welfare states, especially social and labour market policies. New forms of digitalization and automation reshape how society ‘works’. Innovations such as bots and robots change the nature of work and create new types of employment (e.g. gig work) and economic sectors. They also destroy existing jobs, automatizing tasks and making whole branches of the economy redundant. Social and political scientists begin to understand the processes and outcomes of this transformation in advanced industrialized countries. Especially for middle-income countries, however, we still know relatively little about the political consequences of the future of work. Do fears and hopes about digitalization reshape the opinions of citizens and the political elite about social and labour policies? And do they make existing cleavages such as the difference between formal and informal sectors stronger or weaker? Employing mixed methods and a nested case study analysis of Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia, this project will address these questions. The project combines insights from existing surveys with an original survey experiment in the three countries. These findings will then be contrasted with results from a content analysis of social media and with information from expert interviews. With its comparative approach, the project will allow us to understand how digitalization works in societies in which we see differently salient divides. Will digitalization provide new divides, reinforce existing divides or perhaps even mitigate them? The project will therefore contribute to the literature and theories on divides and cleavages in middle-income countries. Such questions and the underlying processes are harder to observe in countries like Germany, where informality is less salient, but still poses an important problem in the face of digitalization. The project will thus create insights even beyond the countries/ regions studied.

The project team will consist of Prof. Kemmerling, a three-year PostDoc as second principal investigator and a PhD (66% position). Please check our websites regularly for the job calls which will follow soon.

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Meine 8 Jahre Leben mit Orbans Propaganda und was das für den praktischen Umgang mit Meinungen zu Putins Krieg bedeuten könnte

Wir EuropäerInnen haben in den friedlichen Jahren nach 1989 verlernt, mit Propaganda umzugehen. Dabei sind die Zeiten zur Manipulation öffentlicher Meinung so gut wie nie. Jede große Kommunikationsrevolution, so fortschrittlich sie wirken mag, brachte immer auch Zwietracht, Polarisierung und Konflikt hervor, welche durch gezielte oder ungezielte Beeinflussung öffentlicher Meinung maßgeblich verschlimmert wurde. So hat die massenhafte Verbreitung billiger (Schund-)Presse zu nationalistischen Aufwallungen in allen beteiligten Ländern des ersten Weltkriegs geführt. Die Erfindung und Verbreitung des Buchdrucks wird häufig in Verbindung mit Religionskriegen in Europa gebracht. Daher ist es nicht erstaunlich, dass auch das Internet und soziale Medien, neben allen Vorteilen, großes Potential zum Missbrauch haben.

Ich selbst habe dies acht Jahre in Ungarn erlebt, und das, obwohl mein Ungarisch alles andere als gut ist. Während dieser Zeit hat das Orban Regime eine gigantische Propagandamaschine aus Plakaten, Zeitungsannoncen, sozialen Medien, Fernsehberichten, bis hin zu Gas-/Stromrechnungen mit politischen Inhalten angeworfen. Natürlich unter freundlicher Mithilfe des „großen Bruders“ aus Moskau, der Orban auch mit zahlreichen finanziellen und technischen Hilfen unterstützt.

Als regelmäßiger Spaziergänger – wir haben einen Hund – bekommt man die Früchte dieser Propaganda en passant deutlich zu spüren. Um nur mal die verrückteste These zu nehmen, die ich in dieser Zeit gehört habe: Der Grund, warum Deutschland 2015/6 zahlreiche syrische Bürgerkriegsflüchtende aufnahm, lag darin, dass Deutschland nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg von französisch-moslemischen Besatzungssoldaten unterworfen und heimlich islamisiert wurde!

Mittlerweile verstehen wir gut, dass es derzeit in allen Industrieländern eine große rechtspopulistisch und rechtsradikale Propagandakampagne gibt, die versucht, demokratische Institutionen infrage zu stellen, nationalistische Gefühle zu schüren und xenophobe, rassistische und homophobe Ansichten zu verbreiten. Wenn jedoch schon eine Minderheit von Wählern Viktor Orban in einer elektoralen Autokratie zu einer stabilen Regierung verhilft, dann ist nicht verwunderlich, dass die russische öffentliche Meinung durch den KGB-ausgebildeten Diktator Putin noch viel stärker und erfolgreicher manipuliert wurde und, jetzt im Krieg, noch viel mehr manipuliert wird.

Doch darum geht es mir hier gar nicht. Mir geht es vielmehr darum, was man praktisch als Einzelner dagegen tun kann.

Und da, glaube ich, müssen wir immer noch viel dazulernen. Ich selbst bin ganz eindeutig kein Experte, aber ich will trotzdem ein paar praktische Überlegungen teilen. Denn es ist nicht damit getan, einfach auf die Manipulation hinzuweisen. Mit reinen Fakten, sofern sie denn in Russland und bei Putins UnterstützerInnen und SympathisantInnen überhaupt ankommen, ist es nicht getan.

1.) Wer tritt in Kommunikation? Sollte es sich dabei um einen Bot oder einen bezahlten Propagandisten handeln, lohnt sich die Mühe nicht. Manchmal erkennt man das schon an unwahrscheinlichen Twitterprofilen. Ebenso ineffizient ist der Umgang mit besonders radikalisierten hardcore Anhängern. Das ist zumeist Zeitverschwendung. Darüber hinaus gibt es jedoch eine breite Menge von Menschen, die von Propaganda vereinnahmt wurden, die man aber durchaus noch umstimmen kann und mE auch umstimmen muss.

2.) Bei solchen Menschen ist es absolut wichtig, sie gerade am Anfang nicht zu antagonisieren. Ich sage nicht, dass man mit ihnen sympathisieren soll. Aber man muss sie verstehen, etwas reden lassen. Gerade am Anfang ist es wichtig, Triggerworte wie ‚Rassist‘, ‚Nazi‘ etc. zu vermeiden. Nicht, um die Meinung des anderen zu tolerieren, sondern um sie zu unterwandern. Der direkte ‚Angriff‘ führt fast immer zu instinktiven Abwehrhaltungen des anderen. Daher sollte man, wenn überhaupt, immer nur Argumente des anderen kritisieren, aber nicht den anderen persönlich.

3.) Viele Arten von fake news enthalten einen mikroskopisch-großen Anteil von Wahrheit. Nehmen wir Putins angeblichen Feldzug gegen ukrainische Neonazis. In der Tat gibt es in der Ukraine hässliche Auswüchse des Rechtsextremismus. Die eigentliche fake news liegt in der grotesken Übertreiben, nämlich dass die ukrainische Regierung nur aus Neonazis bestünde, und sogar einen Genozid gegen russische BürgerInnen in der Ukraine betreibe. Daher muss die Argumentation eher darauf basieren, die Unverhältnismäßigkeit eines Angriffskrieges zu betonen. Man kann auch über reductio ad absurdum gehen: Wenn Putin etwas gegen Neonazis hat, müsste er mit sich und vielen seiner Anhänger in einen Krieg treten, denn seine Ansichten sind eindeutig rechtsradikal. Außerdem unterstützt Putin – und das wissen die meisten Leute mit rechter Gesinnung selbst – rechtsradikale und rechtspopulistische Bewegungen in vermutlich allen europäischen Ländern.

4.) Es ist aus meiner Erfahrung wenig hilfreich direkt gegen ein Argument, ein Faktum anzureden, sondern eher bestehende Meinungen indirekt zu destabilisieren. In Ungarn habe ich, wie auch in Deutschland, oft gehört, dass Intellektuelle sowieso nur sich selbst überhöhen wollen und angeblich weniger Gebildeten unwahre Dinge erzählen. Dieser Reflex ist in postkommunistischen Ländern meiner Erfahrung nach noch stärker ausgeprägt. Ich sage in solchen Fällen immer, dass das sein kann, aber dass in meiner Kindheit die coolsten Typen alle Handwerker waren, und dass bei uns niemand auf ‚einfache Werktätige‘ herabsah. Es geht um das Aufbrechen von Narrativen – das ist ein schwieriger, komplexer Prozess, der viel Fingerspitzengefühl benötigt. Wenn man jedoch mal eine solche Basis aufgebaut hat, kann man sich auch an politisch viel heiklere Themen machen.

5.) Sollte man tatsächlich etwas ‚Terrain‘ gewonnen haben, sollte man diese Tatsache am besten gar nicht groß thematisieren oder bewerten. Allenfalls dafür danken, dass der andere sich Zeit genommen hat. Keinesfalls betonen, dass der andere Zeit/ Energie oder sogar an Ruf eingebüßt hat. Die meisten professionellen Konfliktschlichter betonen, dass es ganz entscheidend ist, dass die andere Seite ihr Gesicht wahren kann. In Zeiten eines Krieges klingt dies wie ein unzumutbares Zugeständnis, aber es ist zumeist die einzige Alternative. Wie gesagt, so etwas kann nicht für Kriegsverbrecher gelten, wohl aber für politische hochgradig manipulierte Mitläufer- und SympathisantInnen.

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Podcast @brandtschool about #migrant workers’ rights and #sportswashing in mega events like #Qatar2022 football worldcup

The Brandt School students recorded a podcast on international labour law and sportswashing using the case of mega events such as the football (soccer) World Cup in Qatar 2022. The podcast was recorded before the Russian invasion of Ukraine happened, so you won’t find references to it. But, I think, the huge entanglement of organizations like FIFA, UEFA or the IOC with dictatorships such as Russia, make some of the lessons of this podcast also relevant for current events.

You can listen to the podcast here: https://thebulletin.brandtschool.de/the-bulletin-podcast-18-labor-violations-against-migrants-in-mega-events#jump

Or you can read some (hastily written) interview notes (not an accurate transcript) of the podcast here:


1.           Could you please explain the international labor law? How does it

protect labor migrants? Why is it important?

To be honest ILL does not exist to the same degree that international business law or international trade law exists. Often at the intersection between HR and Labour Rights. It is a patchwork of private, public and supra-/international law (UN, WTO, ILO, EU). In some realms quite advanced (e.g. anti-discrimination with in EU, health & safety regulations, regulations related to international trade, although there is no such thing as a social clause within the GATT/ WTO rules). In others standards ratified by some countries and also with implementation problems, most importantly those by ILO, e.g. through Fundamental Conventions.

Enforcement more difficult, Often done unilaterally, or through trade sanctions (e.g. in the case of dumping), Regional enforcement schemes. There are also important voluntary standards (CSR strategies by companies). Within all these standards, guaranteeing free flow of labour one of the most subject areas of IL standards. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a Convention of the UN, however fewer than 50 countries ratified it (the least ratified of all UN HR Conventions). No country from the Arabic peninsula, if I see this correctly. Not the only international attempt at regulation. ILO also has several migration-specific tools e.g. the Migration for Employment Convention, and of course on Forced Work.

So, all in all, yes ILL is important, but it is still in its infancy/teenage years, if that makes sense. Compared to, say the international trade regime it was much more controversial in the beginning and so advanced could only be seen on issue such as Child Work. Migration remains a controversial topic.

2.           Why do we need to talk about mega events when we raise the issue of

violation of labor migrant rights?

We don’t need to talk, but because Mega Events have more visibility, they highlight important social problems in the field of work and work-related migration. In an age of limited attention span in the World Opinion, such Events get a lot of air time. In this way they can bring attention. What they don’t provide is real leverage, unless the FIFA really insists on exercising the leverage (e.g. by a threat of withdrawing the tournament). So, this discussion gets us away from merely legal aspects to social and political mobilisation for workers’ rights.

3.           Can mega-events like the World Cup be an avenue to pressurize reforms

in the host country’s labor market?

In principle yes, but we need to understand first the motives why would Qatar host the world Cup? I think it is not because the Sheiks are crazy about sports. They tend to prefer yachting & sailing, Polo or Hunting with Hawks. Let me tell you an anecdote to support this impression. 12 years ago, I went to Indonesia for a holiday (and some business). I booked a surprisingly cheap flight, because I forgot that on the very day of the flight would be the World Cup final in South Africa. Then I checked and I saw we will have a 6h stop in Doha, the capital of Qatar. So I thought, well that’s great, let’s watch the game there. When I arrived at the airport, the game was nowhere displayed, in no bar, not even most of the airport lounges. I would have paid, but to those I could have gotten access they did not bother. What I did see, instead, was a lot of ads for Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup.

I think this anecdote reveals what Qatari leaders really want. They need the WC for Sportswashing (which is exactly the opposite of what we have been discussing, i.e. distracting attention from unpopular political issues such as HR, involvement in conflicts) in the broad sense and to gain international support also for domestic security. Don’t forget Qatar is also in an economic and strategic rivalry if not manifest conflict with other countries, Saudi Arabia in particular. So actually, Mega Events often do the opposite, they try to distract World Opinion from a hot political issue. You might have heard that Saudi Arabia, through some investment vehicles, recently bought a English Premier League Club for instance. Or just think why China hosted two Olympic games in recent times? One motive is clearly to show how well organized, how clean and how desirable the Chinese political regime is as a project. And of course that the claims about HR abuses among Uigurs are just lies, so they say.

Does this sportswashing to host events such as World Cups, Olympic Games etc. work? I think there is some systematic (statistical) evidence that it does, and also good case study evidence. But there are also disclaimers. E.g. in democracy it works less. And, of course, there is counter-mobilization. Organizations such as Transparency International, Amnesty International, Workers’ Rights Movements, Migrants’ Rights Movements etc….

Did raising attention to the horrible working standards in Qatar work? Well, to some degree. E.g. Qatar did sign an agreement with the ILO in 2017, cases get intensely monitored etc. Has Qatar abolished the Kafala system and introduced a general minimum wage? Human Rights Watch, for instance, would argue that only some important elements of the system have been removed.

Kafala means that an international migrant gets employed by someone in Qatar and the migrant does have no rights of unilaterally quitting and, e.g. look for another job, often his or her legal documents are withheld so that a worker can no longer leave the country without the permission of the employer. They often also do not have to any legal resources, e.g. if a worker wants to sue his or her employer. Such systems can easily lead to abuse, mistreatment, horrible working conditions and often constitute forced, if not a form of slave labour.

So yes, counter-mobilization to some degree. Qatar feels being watched more than before. But it is also remarkable that they postponed the abolition until most of the construction were done. Otherwise there ludicrously ambitious plan to host a world cup in such hostile climate conditions in such a short period of time would have been blown away, I guess.

4.           How can organizing committee and private investors play a role in

pushing for improvements in the international labor laws and practices?

As I said, the FIFA should have a role in this, because it is the only organization with direct leverage over the Qataris. But it doesn’t because it considers itself to be unpolitical, and because it itself is deeply divided on such issues. Moreover, it gets a lot of money from Qatar, and I mean a lot of money, both officially, and if the sources are correct, there is also clear evidence for corruption, for instance in getting the right to host the tournament. Not saying that the Qatar bid was the only corrupt one, but it was arguably the highest offer.

So pressure needs to come from FIFA’s main sponsors e.g. such as VISA, Coca Cola, but also Adidas. Adidas is often overlooked, because it is kind of assumed to be part of the logistics, but there is also good evidence for the very intimate role which Adidas plays. For me, as a German it is always bewildering that Adidas often gets a pass in this regard. They are a major ally of FIFA.

Shaming does work to some extent. So FIFA has had some difficulties, reportedly to get prominent sponsors. But, of course, the most important sponsor of World Cup 2022 is Qatar itself. And don’t forget that there are also a lot of non-Western sponsors for which such shaming strategies may not necessarily work.

5.           What happens after the mega events are over? How can we ensure host

countries continue to protect labor migrants?

The saddest thing about such Mega Events and the Qatari World Cup in particular is that it usually does not yield lasting impacts. There might be some exceptions. For instance, Barcelona used the 1992 summer Olympic games to relaunched its urban face and this arguably spurred a lot of investment and tourism, but very often, there is little economic benefit in hosting a tournament. Which is one of the reasons that recent mega events were not hosted by any type of rich countries, but by rich autocratic countries. These countries want to gain something out of it, namely international popularity, and also domestic popularity. It is kind of an Opium for the Masses, if you want, something you offer either instead of political rights, democratic accountability etc.

So yes, the counter-mobilization of human rights organizations, organization promoting ILL etc. are vital. They are important to make sportswashing as ineffective as possible. The Khafala system might have been severly and lastingly undermined, the Qatari government seeks international reputation especially in the West, so it also tries to become more modern in the sense of social and labour standards.

All in all, however, we also need to rethink how mega events are allocated. For instance, it is obvious that hosting the World Cup in Qatar and under such conditions is a political, social and environmental disaster which costs more than it really brings back. Apart from being good entertainment, of course. For me the thing that makes the Qatar World Cup so absurd are its social and environmental cost with very little legitimacy in terms of being support by actual local fans.

It is important to note that this is not to promote a Eurocentric, self-serving narrative. It should become easier, financially speaking to host mega events, and organizations should help countries in the Global South to host these events rather than to press them into financially extremely unfavourable terms. The grotesque nature of hosting a World Cup in a country of 300,000 Qataris and 2.3 million migrants highlights the dubious way how the FIFA allocates World Cups. In the grand scheme, the entertainment circus will move on the. The big stadiums, will be used for something else, built back or will remain empty white elephants.

One sign of the times is perhaps, and we saw this in the recent European Cup, is that Football gets increasingly politicized and polarized. In that way, there will be pressure exerted again against those who participate. For instance, a lot of companies and UEFA (the European football association) itself were accused of Pinkwashing, i.e. paying lip services to HR as regards sexual orientations. UEFA (and FIFA) a good examples, because they launch costly PR campaigns raising awareness about anti-discrimination and anti-racism, but then hosts 4 games in Budapest, Hungary, which currently has a clearly xenophobic, racist and homophobic national government.

So yes, awareness raising is very important, first and foremost to counter and undermine the Sportswashing strategy of these regimes. Second, we need to tie more aid and trade policies to minimum labour standards. Of course, the West cannot abuse and inflate the use of social dumping against poorer countries. But things like forced work, withholding important legal documents and making workers work during unbearable heat etc. must be forbidden in any context, and, in particular not in super-rich countries such as Qatar. These minimum labour standards should also be accompanied by minimum capital investment standards. Not every investor is desirable, and there needs to be an international regime that indexes investments on ecological, social and political criteria. Sounds naïve, but you have to start somewhere.

Finally, and returning to the mega-events, the rules of giving away hosting rights of such events must also be scrutinized. I am a big fan of imposing a lottery system to take away corruption from the process. And FIFA also needs to decide how to deal with political conditions. And cannot merely launch fancy PR campaigns exhorting appeals to common humanity, but in the offices collaborating with brutal regimes. Or else, it needs to become a vacuous diplomatic organization with no political content whatsoever, but then risk that important sponsors will feel forced to withdraw.

In the larger question of the regulation of migration flows, of course, we also need more scrutiny and political and legal mechanisms to ensure that migrants’ rights are respected all along the way of migration. My wife, Luicy Pedroza works on a project that looks at an integrated perspective on migrants’ rights starting in their home country going into the destination country and combining numerous aspects such as questions of legal status, social rights, labour market integration.

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Bismarck, Urban Insiders and the Global Rise of Social Security Contributions

Together with a great team of research assistants, Philipp Genschel and Laura Seelkopf compiled an impressive data set (TID) that gives information about the first introductions of all major modern forms of taxation from personal income taxes to VAT. You can find this data here: https://tid.seelkopf.eu/ On basis of this data, the two have edited an equally impressive edited volume introducing the data and then looking at the correlates of early introductions. For details see here: https://twitter.com/LauraSeelkopf/status/1488449970306957314.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the book project. My chapter deals with early introductions of Social Security Contributions (SSC). As you might know, SSC are typically very closely linked to social security. They tend to be ear-marked and represent rather a type of forced or contingent savings than a real tax. Because of this strong nexus, a crucial question is not (only) when to introduce SSC, but rather whether to use SSC or taxes to finance early soc security.

This crucial question was also a quetion which vexed German imperial chancellor Bismarck in the 19th century. Bismarck is often credited as founder of the welfare state and public social insurance. One impressive finding of TID is that many non-European countries have done similar things, at times much earlier. Nonetheless, Bismarck’s decision was important because it inspired a lot of other countries to do similar reforms. So his problem becomes relevant: How to finance social insurance? Surprisingly enough, he preferred taxation! And he lost against the parliament. This is why the German welfare state became associated with SSC.

Now the question is whether this was an exclusively German story or whether there are some general structural problems. In other words, when do governments use SSC rather than taxes to finance early social policy? Of course, there are many different potential explanations why governments might choose one form of financing the welfare state over another. Colonial introductions played a huge role. French colonies, for instance, introduced SSC in the year 1952 as response to a bill on maternity benefits passed in the French parliament.

For me, one potential explanation is particularly intriguing: as argued above, compared to general taxes, SSC are (usually) tied to benefits. This makes them particularly interesting for qualified workers, usually found in the (male) urban industrial sector, who want to insure themselves against issues such as invalidity, but who do not really seek universal insurance for everyone. Some people have called this segment ‘insiders’, because these workers are the ones usually having access to social security benefits whereas a lot of self-employed, non-employed or informally employed people do not. Whether or not you agree with this notion, it is clear that SSC impart a different logic compared to taxation. In particular, SSC do not really follow a redistributive logic.

If it is true that SSC are advocated by urban (industrial) workers and their interest groups this suggests that they arise in urban settings. Rural societies do not have the logistic and political capacity to promote SSC. However, there is a counter argument, which might impose an upper limit on this logic of urban industrialism. Very urban societies make special interests very large and dissipate the benefits of insidership. Larger urban societies will contain workers of all types not only specially qualified workers. They will include service sector workers and many other people in the need of social security. They will also include informal workers. In such settings, SSC loses some of its charm and it would make more sense to expect tax-financed social security.

When you put both arguments together, we could expect that SSC need some degree of urbanization but only up to a limit. This is also what we see in the data. The figure shows predicted probabilities for having an SSC rather than a tax financed system. I do not want to bore you with the details. Econometrics is one of those things you do not want to look into too closely, because you would realize how ugly the truth often is. For those interested in the details, I refer to the chapter. Let us focus on the somewhat naïve and stylized descriptive (bivariate) relationship between the probability of having a SSC-financed rather than a tax-financed social security system. The curvilinear relationship indeed illustrates that the probability is highest for medium levels of urban density. Very rural countries don’t really have the capacity and the political will to collect SSC, very urban societies do no longer find it attractive compared to taxed-financed.

For details see the book chapter.

There is some anecdotal evidence that this logic applies to many countries in the global south and the global north. But of course there are varieties and several other reasons informing this choice. The chapter concludes with Bismarck’s other defeat. As many people might know, Bismarck famously introduced social security (also) to fight Socialism and the rise of Social Democracy. As history showed, this did not really work. To the contrary, early decisions for or against SSC might have had path dependencies because, once you introduce SSC, (qualified) workers will fight for their expansion and continuation.

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PostDoc-Stelle, 2 Jahre, Internationalisierung und Digitalisierung @brandtschool @unierfurt

Wir suchen jemand, der sich für den Bereich Hochschulmanagement und Lehradministration weiterqualifizieren möchte. Weitere Rückfragen gerne an mich.

Hier ist die Ausschreibung als pdf

Und hier nochmals direkt eingefügt:


Kennziffer 67/2021

An der Willy Brandt School of Public Policy der Universität Erfurt ist zum 01.10.2021 bzw. zum nächstmöglichen Zeitpunkt folgende Stelle im Umfang von 40 Wochenstunden zu besetzen:
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiterin
Internationalisierung und Digitalisierung der Lehre
Entgeltgruppe 13 TV-L (100 %)

• Anbahnung institutionell verankerter Kooperationen in Form von gemeinsamen Program-men (Joint/Double Degree, Cotutelle)
• Einwerbung von Drittmitteln zur Unterstützung der angebahnten Kooperationen
• Konzeptualisierung gemeinsamer Formate mit ausgewählten Partnern im Ausland
• Entwicklung neuer Lehrformate und -instrumente, die die Erbringung der Lehre – global gedacht – vereinfachen und verbessern können (hybrid, online, interkulturell) anzuwen-den im Bereich der Public Policy und Sozialwissenschaften (z.B. Public Administra-tion/Public Economics oder Conflict Studies and Management) u.a. auch unter Berücksichti-gung der mentalen Gesundheit der Teilnehmerinnen,
• Lehrtätigkeit zur Erprobung der entwickelten Lehrformate in den o. g. inhaltlichen Bereichen (2 LVS)

• abgeschlossenes wissenschaftliches Hochschulstudium (Diplom/MA/Staatsexamen) in Public Policy, Sozialwissenschaften, Ökonomie oder Jura, idealerweise promoviert
• Kenntnis der internationalen Hochschullandschaft und -zusammenarbeit
• Erfahrung im Bereich der Hochschulkooperation bzw. Austauschpartnerschaften
• Lehrerfahrung in einem internationalen Umfeld, idealerweise in englischer Sprache
• Erfahrung in der Einwerbung und Bewirtschaftung von Drittmitteln
• technische Kompetenz für hybride und online Lehre
• fließende Beherrschung der englischen und deutschen Sprache in Wort und Schrift
• Interkulturelle Kompetenz

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Ihre Bewerbung mit aussagekräftigen Unterlagen (Lebenslauf, Studienzeugnisse, Arbeitszeugnisse, Sprachzertifikate, Lehrnachweise) senden Sie bitte ausschließlich per E-Mail unter Angabe der Kennziffer bis zum 27.08.2021 an:
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A rant (not really) against using frameworks (in teaching)

I have to admit I am torn. I often preach against excessive parsimoniousness in social sciences. In particular, I am no longer a (strong) advocate of the Caltech rules (one argument per paper), because I have seen too many papers, say, claiming that there is a causal relationship between inequality and voting behave, and too many papers claiming the reverse causal relationship with none of the two types of papers ever citing each other. Such stuff is good for CVs, but leads to an inflation of papers with very little cumulative scientific knowledge production.

There is, however, the opposite danger, which is becoming too complex, too holistic. In the struggle of serving to many masters, many MA and PhD students want to squeeze everything into a framework or an approach and often these students get lost in these. While the outcomes are often overly ambitious, occasionaly hilarious, the students take their cues from the scholarly literature.

Let me make examples from two fields: In comparative political economy, very established frameworks or approaches are Peter Hall and David Soskice’s Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) and Gosta Esping-Andersen’s Welfare Regimes. In the field of development, there is Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach approach. Now, I don’t want to defecate onto some of social science most sacred institutions. And my rant is not really against the existence of these frameworks: In God’s Pantheon there is enough space for all types of scientific contributions. Nonetheless, I think these frameworks are very challenging if not ‘god-awful’ to teach.

Just to give you an example. Try using this version of the capabilities approach for your MA (and smoke it): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1875067211000320

Hard, isn’t it? And it is not necessarily the authors fault. The types of frameworks I have in mind, often sound great on paper and in theory, but are almost impossible to apply, especially in MA or PhD thesis.

First, they are very complex and holistic, covering material from many different disciplines. Take VoC, which effectively combines insights from business studies, economics, political science and sociology. That’s a lot of literature to work through, if you take this seriously.

Second, they often have an enigmatic status in the research logic. Are VoCs or welfare regimes an independent variable, a dependent variable, both or neither? I have seen all of these options applied, almost always without much reflection. For instance, many researchers use regimes as an independent (macro) variable for micro-level data, say on public attitudes, but are these regimes really independent variables in the common sense? Often the clusters or ideal cases are greatly informed by what researchers know about the macro- and micro-level information about these cases.

Third, are these regimes historical configurations, real cases, ideal cases or a mix thereof? The confusion makes empirical and conceptual research hard. Is Sweden a Scandinavian type of welfare state? Is Denmark? This leads to endless debates, often with the outcome that there are as many regime types as there are countries in this world (if not more). Even Esping-Andersen does not seem to be bothered following these discussions any longer. No wonder, the empirical record of such classifications sometimes looks like this: https://media.springernature.com/lw685/springer-static/image/art%3A10.1057%2Fs41267-016-0001-8/MediaObjects/41267_2016_1_Fig1_HTML.gif


Fourth, frameworks and complex approaches are often hard to fill with content and to operationalize. Take Sen’s capabilities approach. What are capabilities exactly? Some scholars have tried to fill the content (e.g. Nancy Fraser). Others have tried to operationalize them (see the UN’s expanding catalogue of SDGs). But, more than often, this leads to even more follow up questions. And, by the way, what are functionings and why do we need such a clumsy word for this?

Fifth, some of these frameworks and approaches have the half-life of fruitcake on a garden table on a hot and wet German summer day, with the wasps already buzzing around. For example: Does anyone still bother what the EU’s Open Method of Coordination was all about? Probably not, but this did not hinder many PhD students 20 odd years ago to write their theses and books about it. Chapeau, by the way, to those who were the first ones to ride the wave, they usually ended up with permanent positions, but, alas, fortune was with those who came thereafter. In such cases, the frameworks (Green or White books on Governance, Aid Effectiveness, Anti-Poverty Strategy Papers…) come from the policy world, and the policy world constantly reinvents itself to constantly refresh its own legitimacy. See William Easterly’s hilarious though cynical view on the proliferation of such policy buzzwords.

Sixth, there is also the related problem of picking very current and politicized topics. Umberto Eco once said that a good topic needs to be at least 500 years old. Now, Umberto Eco was a historian interested in medieval semiotics. In social science we do not have the luxury to wait that long. But as a caveat his advice remains pertinent.

Why I am saying all this? Because I have seen dozens of PhD students filling all the voids, buttering over all the cracks and rationalizing all the inconsistencies of such frameworks and failing miserably. I have seen people writing not one, but two or three PhD theses on VoC simultaneously: one covering the individual- or firm-level analysis of skills, another on the cross-country comparison of macro regimes, a third one on the evolution of government policies. And I have seen dozens if not hundreds of MA term papers and theses pretending to use the capabilities approach while in fact just name-and-concept dropping it and then moving on to something much more feasible.

Again, I am not saying one should exaggerate parsimoniousness. So don’t do this either:

I found this infographic in a German textbook on globalization. I find it wanting, but you may decide for yourself.

I guess the trick is balance. Albert Einstein allegedly said that one has to do things as simply as possible but not ‘more simple’ than that.

This is why I try to steer MA and PhD students away from overly complex frameworks. There is nothing wrong with frameworks as sets of statements about reality, guiding research, helping narrowing down the field. However, when complex approaches and frameworks try to copy reality and map too broad a landscape, the terrain becomes mushy and full of pit holes. At some point, you need look at the map and to cut and chop it again.

Some talented students may handle the complexity and generality of Sen or Hall and Soskice. That’s good then. But for the majority: Be realistic, look at small aspects of reality and carve out smaller contributions. Otherwise you poor students end up citing these frameworks (which is good for the authors I guess), but will either ignore them or else you will get dragged down by them.

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