The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Social Policies in the Middle East and North Africa

  • Ferdinand EiblEmail author
Reference work entry


This article provides a succinct overview of trends in social policy provision in the Middle East and North Africa since the late 1950s. The main argument made in this piece is that the region underwent a period of social policy divergence up until the mid-1970s, followed by increasing convergence of social policy provision. This is demonstrated with reference to educational, health, and social security policies. The article also provides a brief outline of the historical legacies of social policies in the region, arguing that these were not the root of the divergence that occurred in the post-colonial period. Rather, the key driver of this divergence was differences in the composition of the regimes’ ruling coalitions: republican regimes adopted a strategy of populist mobilisation toward the working and middle class; monarchical regimes opted for a strategy of selective co-optation of (tribal) notables, business elites, and the armed forces. The article also highlights major challenges of social policies in the region, such as problems of inclusion, equity, and long-term effects on distributive expectations, and highlights their political economy underpinnings.


Middle East and North Africa Social policy Political economy Education Health Welfare state 

JEL Classification

12 13 N15 P16 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s College LondonLondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Adeel Malik

There are no affiliations available