Inaugural lecture Franziska Gassmann

Social safety net sorely needed

Policies for social protection are becoming ever more important in the global fight against poverty, according to Professor Franziska Gassmann. She is the new chair of Social Protection and Development at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, part of UNU-MERIT at Maastricht University. Her research focuses on how to combat poverty and inequality and promote individual development, for example by providing specific benefits within broader social protection systems.

Safety net
Poverty, vulnerability, inequality and exclusion remain urgent challenges worldwide. In developing countries, one in five children live in extremely poor conditions, while in prosperous countries, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. Every individual, young as well as old, needs physical, emotional and cognitive security to be able to develop and flourish. This is beneficial for wellbeing generally and for work productivity. Having safety nets in place from birth ensures that children who grow up disadvantaged have equal opportunities as far as possible, and that people have support to fall back on later in the event of illness or unemployment.

Social protection
Recent research by Professor Gassmann shows that investing in social protection systems has clear added value and a positive cost-benefit analysis in the long term. Reliable and regular income support not only helps to improve the position of poor and vulnerable groups in society, but also strengthens the economy. In her ongoing research, the key question is why some countries do and others do not invest in social security. The available budget is only part of the explanation; just as important are political will and functional government institutions.

Professor Franziska Gassmann has been endowed professor at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and professorial fellow at UNU-MERIT since 2015. She has been a senior researcher at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance of UNU-Merit since 2005. Her projects are funded by the NWO and international organisations (UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, WFP). She has more than 20 years’ experience in consulting for organisations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, OECD, ILO, UNDP and national governments.

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