Research | Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik - MPISOC

Department of Foreign and International Social Law



Social protection is central to most people around the world. However, only social law obliges the state to protect its citizens from life risks, to help them in emergencies and to open up opportunities for participation. With our research, we try to better understand social law, especially social benefits law. This includes the study of the major social security branches as well as social assistance benefits and services provided through social work.

While delving into legal details is important, we must never lose sight of the big picture: On the one hand, it is necessary to understand the various concepts of the social and welfare state and, on the other hand, to work out the increasingly visible interdependencies between the social benefits systems.

Since the form of social protection varies from country to country, the best way to gain insights is by comparing different legal systems and the different levels of the hierarchy of norms within individual legal systems. In addition, the originally national social law is more and more influenced by the law and social policy of the European Union as well as by international requirements, in particular human right

Research Focus

Social law is particularly characterised by constant change, as it is geared to social and economic conditions. If these change, for example as a result of globalisation and digitalisation or as a result of new forms of employment and family stuctures, social law has to change as well. By studying the processes of change, we can identify the lines of development and the peculiarity of social law. For analytical purposes, a distinction can be made between three types of processes:

Europeanization and Internationalization of Social Law

Supranational and international regulations lead to interaction between national law and the regional or international regulatory levels. The result for the legal system is a greater plurality with more possible conflicts of laws to resolve.

Modernisation and Restructuring of Social Benefits Systems in Developed States

Demographic change, changing labour relations, migration and new family structures create problems to which social policy must find answers. The solutions often contain new regulatory approaches and techniques that can have repercussions on the formation of legal systems.

The Transformation of Social Benefits Systems in Developing and Threshold Countries

The analysis of social protection systems in developing and threshold countries provides information on the possibilities of creating universal social standards. In comparison with the development of social law in European countries, it also provides insights into the factors relevant to development and hence also into possible stages of development and their social and cultural conditionality.

Research Projects

Foreign Correspondents

Scientific Staff
Research Projects