Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy

Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy

In accordance with its interdisciplinary orientation the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy examines socio-political issues from a legal and economic perspective. The Department of Foreign and International Social Law investigates, mainly by way of comparative research, the particular features of social law as an instrument for the implementation of social policy measures and as a special field of administrative law. The main focus is on systems that safeguard against social risks, such as illness, old age, long-term care, invalidity, unemployment and accidents, as well as systems that provide social aid and support. A systematic study of the principal developments in social law is of central importance. The emphasis here is primarily on three interlinked processes: reforms in the social security systems of developed countries, the Europeanisation and internationalisation of social law, and the establishment of social benefit systems in developing countries.
The research of the Institute’s second department, named Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), focuses on those socio-political issues that are associated with demographic change and the aging of the population. Empirical models that base on German, European and global data and their resulting projections enable MEA to deliver sound scientific advice for economic and social policy. MEA is part of several international research networks and thus combines academic research on a high international level with strictly scientific policy consultancy. Both departments work together closely, particularly with regard to the effects of social law on economic behaviour patterns in Germany and abroad.


Amalienstr. 33
80799 München
Phone: +49 89 38602-0
Fax: +49 89 38602-490

PhD opportunities

This institute has no International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS).

There is always the possibility to do a PhD. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Foreign and International Social Law more
Department Munich Center for the Economics of Aging more
Educational opportunities are more dependent on social background than ethnicity
Newly published anthology provides an overview of ethnic inequalities in education and training more
Intergenerational cohesion in Europe is strong
Long-term study shows opportunities and risks for the aging population in Europe more
"If the European Union wants to be a single market, it also must jointly regulate external access."
The profound influx of refugees has plunged the EU asylum system into a crisis. In this interview, Ulrich Becker, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy talks about " the results of a new study on the social protection rights of refugees in Europe. more
EU refugee protection a hotchpotch of provisions
A comparison of legal provisions pinpoints failure of the EU asylum system more
A new study examining day-to-day variability in adults’ cognitive performance shows that older adults are more consistent than younger ones more
New Centre for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich
With the appointment of Axel Boersch-Supan, the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law has acquired a new research focus and a new name more
The Long Goodbye to the Male Breadwinner Model
Jurists and social scientists come up with recommendations for greater equality of opportunity more
Compulsory retirement for mayors at 65? Too old to embark on a career as a firefighter at 30? Age limits seem out of tune with the times – even virtually discriminatory. Yet there is one age limit that most people are happy to hold onto: retirement age. Ulrich Becker, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, studies the characteristics of age-specific regulations and their legal intricacies.
Everyone who has worked for a long time wants to enjoy a sufficient pension. But is this still realistic given the scale of demographic change? How could the social insurance system be reformed to take the pressure off contributors and still prevent poverty in old age? Axel Börsch-Supan conducts research in the politically charged field of pension financing, extended life expectancy and the threat of declining solidarity at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), part of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy. He says the most important area to improve upon is labor force participation.
Individual social therapy can help reduce the risk of relapse among sex offenders.
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A study at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy analyses the legal arrangement for the regulation of state support with regard to further education programs by means of benefits in kind and cash in Germany and Sweden. These programs are largely provided by third parties, much like many other social services. The purpose of the examination is to find out how both states ensure the fulfilment of the objectives of the programs. For this purpose, the legal systems in Germany and Sweden are compared. more

Policies for inclusive ageing societies

2016 Börsch-Supan, Axel; Kneip, Thorsten
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

According to findings from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), population ageing in Europe does not inevitably entail frictions between generations but also offers opportunities for strengthening cohesion. The social isolation of informal caregivers can be mitigated with an increased availability of formal care. And although impairment leads to reduced social activities, to cognitive decline and depression this vicious circle can be broken by early intervention.


The “third Generation”: Rights and furtherance of children in Germany, France, Italy and Sweden

2015 Becker, Ulrich; Hohnerlein, Eva Maria; Kaufmann, Otto; Weber, Sebastian
In a comparative study a research project at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy examined the protection of individual rights of children, their interests and needs as a normative specification and legitimacy of state family policy support and promotion measures. The country studies of Germany, France, Italy and Sweden show the differences and commonalities with a view to the legitimisation of a public responsibility for the young generation in the context of European and international provisions and guidelines. more

SHARE: A European research instrument in turbulent times

2014 Brandt, Martina; Börsch-Supan, Axel
Social and Behavioural Sciences
The “Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe” (SHARE) is a European Research Infrastructure that was designed to help finding answers to the societal challenges of today. At regular intervals, it collects information on the lives of older Europeans in order to analyse the effects of and the reactions to population ageing, which are made even more dramatic by the financial crisis. A new open access publication based on the latest data sheds light on changes in all key areas of the lives of Europeans today: finances, work, health, and social and family networks. more

Medical expert opinions in social court proceedings

2013 Schweigler, Daniela
Social court proceedings often revolve around complex medical issues. Often, medical experts are requested to assist in the proceedings to clarify the facts. Apart from obtaining expert opinions through the official channels the court may, due to the nature of the German Social Court Act, have a physician of the plaintiff’s choice testify as expert witness. This project examined through nationwide research the extent to which the latter procedure impacts the outcome of social court proceedings. It also seeks to further expose the connection between legal doctrine and empirical law research. more

Saving and Old-Age Provision: New Data for Better Answers

2012 Coppola, Michela; Lamla, Bettina
Social and Behavioural Sciences
Understanding households’ saving behavior is very important, not only for social sciences scientists. The SAVE panel study offers since 2001 detailed information to investigate this topic empirically. The analysis of the data shows that although a vast majority of the population does not feel financially secure for their old-age, only a minority plans to increase their private old-age provisions.  The latest wave of the SAVE-study, conducted in cooperation with the Institute for Employment Research, will allow getting an even improved picture of the households’ old-age provisions. more

The welfare state within the European Union

2011 Becker, Ulrich
In its decision on the Treaty of Lisbon, the German Federal Constitutional Court has emphasised the role of the State in times of increasing international integration, ranking welfare state intervention among the State’s main tasks. To what extent does European integration jeopardise the performance of this task? How much scope do national legislators have regarding welfare state interventions? In answering these questions, the focus is not to be on a unidirectional exertion of influence, but rather, and most importantly, on the interaction between the various legal and political levels. more

Welfare State Sweden: Modernization – Stabilization – Modification

2010 Köhler, Peter A.
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
Sweden has changed considerably since the establishment of the political concept of „folkhemmet“ („people’s home“) in the 1930s. A research project at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law to understand the law of this particular version of a welfare state and to compare it with German experiences required studies over an extensive period of time. These were affected by way of continual involvement in other Institute projects and via independent analyses of important aspects of the change, such as the pension reform of 2000. more
The traditional breadwinner model family has changed. European countries currently exhibit different gender role models coupled with a wide range of gender arrangements; especially in case of asymmetrical task allocation these gender arrangements result in different opportunities for women to achieve independent income security in the context of family law and social law. more

Choice and Competition in Health Care

2008 Sichert, Markus
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
Competition within the health care system is increasingly becoming an instrument used to achieve welfare state allocation effects. At the same time, the targeted autonomy assigned to the actors involved is subject to regulation to ensure solidarity. The newly emerging markets, with their own special features, are both the expression and the subject of complex steering mechanisms which may be investigated by way of comparative law and thus deliver a host of new insights into the cost-intensive hospital sector. more

The Dutch health insurance reform

2007 Walser, Christina
The Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law investigated the core elements of the Dutch health insurance reform, which entered into force at the beginning of 2006. The institute conducted its research with a special view to the reform’s transferability to German law. Main points of emphasis were competition enhancement and financing, which are of particular relevance from the German perspective. more
In 1998, the International Labour Organization (ILO) stipulated a catalogue of core labour standards which are directly binding on all member states. The effective enforcement of these minimum social standards, as an emanation of universal human rights, is also in the interest of industrialized countries, which would otherwise have to retrench the social rights of their own inhabitants. more

Social law reception processes in China

2005 Becker, Prof. Dr. Ulrich; Darimont, Dr. Barbara
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
Due to and within the scope of increasing international interconnections research transfer becomes more and more intensive among the respective countries. In the field of law, and especially as regards social law, it leads to receptions. Here the PR China acts as recipient, on the one hand, and on the other, currently, it experiments with different models and legal regulations that bring new insights and are interesting for other countries – as they also could be a matter of reception. more

Integrative schooling of children with disabilities

2004 Graser, Ulrich
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
Legislation on behalf of persons with disabilities has been subjected to numerous amendments at regional, federal and European levels in recent years. The objective of integrating persons with disabilities in the life of society stated in section 1, book IX of the German Social Code (SGB) has become more and more important. The Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law has singled out for an in-depth interdisciplinary investigation the question of integrative schooling of children with disabilities. The pertinent regulations of integrative schooling are currently a subject of controversy in many of Germany’s constituent states. more

Core labour standards in development cooperation agreements

2004 Becker, Ulrich
Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences
The integration of a binding effect to social clauses according to numerous industrialized states is to ensure humanitarian labour standards and a sufficient level of social protection. As a rule, reference is made to the so-called "core labour standards", which are listed in a declaration issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and laid down in a total of eight ILO Conventions. Germany, as a donor country, is faced with the question of how far compliance with the core labour standards can, and should, be given binding force when carrying out development cooperation projects. more
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