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Varieties of Autocratic Family Policy Expansion: Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey

Monday, February 13, 2023, 1:30 pm – 3:10 pm

The Inequalities and Democracy Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute cordially invites you to its first public seminar.

If you would like to attend, please register here.

Please keep in mind that external guests will not be able to enter the building without prior registration.

Protecting and promoting the family is at the heart of most autocratising regimes throughout the world. Yet, what kind of family policies do these regimes actually pursue? In this exploratory paper, we shed light on the differing pathways of four autocratising regimes with a similar familialistic outlook: Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Poland. We do so by tracing with qualitative methods the development of family policies in terms of their legal structure and distributive implications. Our analysis is placed in a wider institutional context considering a broader range of social policies that affect women and families. The impact of policies is studied beyond the intended and (over-)politicized fertility rates.

Our analysis reveals that the four regimes share a common vision of the role of the family and maintain a pro-natalist and anti-gender discourse. In the name of celebrating the sacred family all of them initiated new policies to protect families, including flagship programs launched with much fanfare. Yet, a closer analysis of a comprehensive range of family-related policies reveals that they used different policy tools, including universal, social insurance- and tax-based programs, and social policy “by other means”. The configuration of these programs have clearly distinguishable distributive profiles benefiting distinct strata of women and families. This comparative study contributes to the understanding of the redistributive causes of the long-lasting popularity of autocratizing regimes in the 21st century.

The draft paper is available upon request from the authors.


Dorottya Szikra is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest, and Visiting Professor at the Department of Gender Studies and Department of Political Science, CEU Vienna. She is also a Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute where she leads a CIVICA research project entitled Welfare, Democracy, and Populism under the Covid-19 Crisis (WELDECO). Szikra's main research field is welfare state and family policy development in Central and Eastern Europe. Her recent publications include (together with Kerem G. Öktem) An illiberal welfare state emerging? Welfare efforts and trajectories under democratic backsliding in Hungary and Turkey; and (together with Cristina Rat and Tomasz Inglot)  Mothers, Families or Children? Family Policy in Poland, Hungary, and Romania, 1945-2020.


Adrienn Győry is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute advancing interdisciplinary research on the relation between democracy and welfare states and examining social policy reforms under democratic backsliding. Her expertise lies in welfare attitude research and comparative social policy analysis in relation to family, labor market and social inclusion policies. Within the CIVICA-supported research project “Welfare, democracy, and populism under the Covid-19 crisis” she analyses social policy changes during the Covid-19 pandemic to disentangle the differences in populist governments’ policy responses to the pandemic.

Kerem Gabriel Öktem is a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM) at Bremen University, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Bilkent University, Turkey, for his thesis ‘Pathways to Universal Social Security in Lower Income Countries: Explaining the Emergence of Welfare States in the Developing World’. His research focusses on questions of how to conceptualize, measure and make sense of social policy developments throughout the world, with a focus on the Global South. Currently, he is exploring on the sequence of inclusion into social security in Turkey and India in the research project ‘Mechanisms of Social Policy Diffusion: Ideational Dynamics of Inclusion and the Political Legitimation of Beneficiary Groups’.


Anil Duman is an Associate Professor and Head of the Political Science Department, CEU Vienna and a Research Affiliate at the CEU Democracy Institute. Her broad research interests include labor economics, political economy, industrial relations, welfare state policies, and redistribution. In her recent research, on the one hand, she has been specializing on the labor market effects and governance of informality, particularly on employment and wage consequences of a dual economic structure. On the other hand, she is examining the relationship between refugee influx and living and working conditions in the context of a developing country.