Discussion Paper

The relevance of social policies for democracy: preventing autocratisation through synergies between SDG 10 and SDG 16

Leininger, Julia / Anna Lührmann / Rachel Sigman
Discussion Paper (7/2019)

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

ISBN: 978-3-96021-098-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.23661/dp7.2019
Price: 6 €

Global threats to democracy – one of the world’s most important forms of inclusive governance – have been rising recently. This paper assesses the effects of social and economic inequalities on autocratisation, meaning a decline in the democratic qualities of a political regime. The key question we study is whether different types, levels and changes in distributional inequalities (Sustainable Development Goal 10) contribute to the erosion of democratic institutions, thereby making governance less inclusive (SDG 16). The paper focusses, in particular, on distributional inequalities and more or less inclusive forms of governance (autocracy vs. democracy). Our findings suggest that conventional measures of income inequality – namely the Gini coefficient – have little to no discernible relationship to the likelihood of a decline in the democratic qualities of a political system. By contrast, inequalities in the provision of social services, particularly healthcare and education, have a clear and consistent relationship to the likelihood of autocratisation. As countries provide social opportunities more equally across their population, they are significantly less likely to experience a weakening of their democratic qualities. The findings of our empirical analyses are likely to receive the most interest from international actors who keep support for democracy high on their agendas, such as Sweden and Switzerland. However, the findings should matter to all those who are investing in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, because achieving SDG 16 is decisive for the overall agenda.

Further experts

Baumann, Max-Otto

Political Science 

Fiedler, Charlotte

Political Scientist 

Gutheil, Lena

Cultural Anthropology 

Götze, Jacqueline

Political Scientist 

Hackenesch, Christine

Political Science 

Janus, Heiner

Political Science 

Keijzer, Niels

Social Science 

Koch, Svea

Social Science 

Li, Hangwei

Political Science 

Lorch, Jasmin

Political Science 

Mathis, Okka Lou

Political Scientist 

Mross, Karina

Political Science 

Schwachula, Anna


Srigiri, Srinivasa Reddy

Agricultural Economist 

Vogel, Johanna

International Cultural Economy 

von Haaren, Paula

Development Economics 

Wingens, Christopher

Political Science 


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