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Research Projects

What is the political origin of family policy in the Global South and the Global North? Utilizing a new historical database of paid maternity leave, this research project focuses on the international diffusion processes of paid maternity leave in the Global South.

Firstly, this research project provides an overview of the adoption and further development of paid maternity leave. It traces the generosity, coverage, and eligibility criteria of paid maternity leave worldwide from 1883 until 2018. In the second part, it examines how the International Labour Organization (ILO) shaped the historical development of paid maternity leave in the Global South, yet failed to influence the work-family life of women workers in practice.

Research Outputs:

Son, Keonhi. 2024. "Ship of Theseus: From ILO Standards to Outcome of Maternity Protection Policy." Journal of Social Policy 53 (1): 189-217.


Son, Keonhi. 2023. "Do International Treaties Only Have an Impact on Ratifying States?: The Influence of the ILO Maternity Protection Conventions in 160 States, 1883 until 2018." International Labour Review 162 (2): 245-269.   

Son, Keonhi. 2022. "Colonialism and Paid Maternity Leave Policies in Sub-Saharan Africa." In Research Handbook on Leave Policy: Parenting and Social Inequalities in a Global Perspective, edited by I. Dobrotić, S. Blum and A. Koslowski, 310-323. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.


Böger, Tobias, Keonhi. Son, and Simone Tonelli. 2022. "Origins of Family Policy: Prerequisites or Diffusion." In Networks and Geographies of Global Social Policy Diffusion, edited by Michael Windzio, Ivo Mossig, Fabian Besche-Truthe and Helen Seitzer, 169-193. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Son, Keonhi, and Tobias Böger. 2021. "The Inclusiveness of Maternity Leave Rights over 120 Years and across Five Continents." Social Inclusion 9 (2): 275-287.   

Son, Keonhi., Böger, Tobias., Tonelli, Simone., Buhr, Petra., Drobnič, Sonja., & Huinink, Johannes. (2020). 2020. Codebook of Historical Database on Maternity Leave (HDML). SFB 1342 (Bremen).

HDML introduction.webp
Figure 1. The introduction of paid maternity leave in the world

As shown in Nobel Prize awarded to Claudia Goldin in 2023, the increasing role of women in market economies is followed by a more attention to the early history of women’s economic activities. However, welfare and labor legislations for women have been rarely studied in the historical context, despite their significant influence on women’s economic empowerment.

To fill this gap, I will investigate the early history of women’s social and economic rights with a focus on welfare policies, protective legislations, and legal barriers to women’s economic participation in European welfare states from 1870 until 1970.

Research Outputs:
Son, Keonhi. 2024. "The Origin of Social Policy for Women Workers: The Emergence of Paid Maternity Leave in Western Countries." Comparative Political Studies 57 (1): 69-100.
Figure 1.jpg
Figure 2. The adoption of paid maternity leave in 20 western countries, 1883-1975
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