Varieties of COVID-19 Reactions and Changing Modes of Globalization in the Global South (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

Duration of the project: 12 months

Team and foreign partners:

  • Prof. Dr. Christina Teipen, Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr, Dr. Petra Dünhaupt, Fabian Mehl, Lukas Handley and Anne Martin at HWR Berlin;
  • Prof. Dr. Ernesto Noronha and Prof. Dr. Premilla D’Cruz at the Indian Institute of Management at the University Ahmedabad,
  • Prof. Dr. Bruno De Conti at University of Campinas, Brazil,
  • Dr. Ben Scully at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in South Africa.

Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - German Research Foundation (DFG)

Workshop Program - June 15th, 2022


This project researched the impact of COVID-19 on social upgrading trajectories in global value chains (GVCs) through theoretical and empirical contributions. Overall, it observed how key players in the Global South as well as external players like lead firms reacted to the COVID-19 crisis, and to what extent existing socio-economic regimes and varieties of capitalisms shaped these crisis reactions. This intermediate research built on previous results of the project team, which referred to a period before COVID-19 and will possibly feed into longer-term research on structural reorientations of social upgrading trajectories in the Global South after COVID-19.

Theoretically, the project brought together GVC approaches and comparative institutionalism through a unique and specific interdisciplinary approach. The combined interdisciplinary theoretical framework made unique contributions to the literature on GVCs, industrial policy, comparative institutionalism and labour sociology. In particular, we linked vertical perspectives on how national sectors are integrated in GVCs with horizontal perspectives that explain the relevance of national politics and institutions. The COVID-19 crisis presented an irretrievable opportunity to test whether social upgrading and downgrading trajectories of the last two decades, which the project team has previously analysed in cooperation with international researchers, matter for this type of crisis management. Therefore, we examined this period of severe disturbances in order to scrutinize path dependency or reorientations within previous GVC constellations and national policies. The outcome forms an important, pivotal point for further theoretical efforts to conceptualize the interaction of economic and social upgrading trajectories and national policy regimes.

Empirically, it contributed to the literature by examining crisis management in India, Brazil and South Africa and the impacts of COVID-19 on social and economic upgrading trajectories in these countries, which had not been researched yet. Brazil is an example of a large emerging economy with strong, albeit currently contested, labour power. India stands for an emerging economy with weak labour institutions and a huge informal sector. South Africa achieved social upgrading in some sectors, such as the automotive industry, with huge inequalities in other segments of the labour market. These differences made it worthwhile to enquire about the general influences of national socio-economic regimes or even if new modes of globalization are evolving. The project was exceptional in its comparative analysis of the automobile and garment industries, which is rarely conducted in the literature on social and economic upgrading in GVCs. While the garment industry as an overall low-tech industry offers generally less opportunities for economic upgrading, the automobile industry represents a sector with huge economic upgrading prospects. In a previous research project, we had already analysed that during the last two decades, in countries of the global South and in both industries, social upgrading has depended on GVC governance as well as on the role of labour power. This project then reconstructed how COVID-19 has affected these two contrasting sector trajectories in the context of three different national institutional systems.

Publications and published results:

De Conti, B., Welle, A., & Breda, D. (2023). Brazil’s automotive and textile sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic: crisis, repercussions and responses from the government, companies and labor unions. IPE Working Paper Series, 219/2023.

De Conti, B., Breda. D., & Welle, A. (2023). Capitalism in Brazil and COVID-19: crisis, repercussions and responses to the pandemic. IPE Working Paper Series, No 217/2023.

Jha, P. & Goyal, M (2023). State and Capital in the Context of COVID-19 in India: Some Implications for Globalisation, IPE Working Paper Series, 221/2023.

Jha, P., Mishra, P., & Singh, K. (2023). Automobile Sector in India at the Current Juncture: Crisis and Prospects. IPE Working Paper Series, 216/2023.

Herr, H., Teipen, C., & Gräf, H. (2023). Corona und das globale Machtgefälle in Lieferketten am Beispiel der Automobilindustrie. In: Haipeter, T., Helfen, M., Kirsch, A, & Rosenbohm, S. (eds.). Soziale Standards in globalen Lieferketten. Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 115-133.

Noronha, E., D’Cruz, P., & Shukla, A. (2023). The Impact of COVID and the Indian Garment Industry. IPE Working Paper Series. (Forthcoming)

Scully, B. (2023). South Africa’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: The crisis in the context of the history of South African Capitalism. IPE Working Paper Series, 220/2023.

Scully, B., Mvundura, W., Nyirenda, T., Tambulu, B., & Zikalala, U. (2023). Cars and Clothes in South Africa’s Covid Experience: The contrasting fortunes of two manufacturing sectors in South Africa. IPE Working Paper Series, 223/2023.

Results will be published in a special issue of the European Journal of Economics and Economic Policy (EJEEP) in the articles below:

Herr, H., & Teipen, C. (2023). Editorial.

Ashman, S. & Scully, B. (2023). South Africa’s economic response to the Covid crisis: a post-pandemic shift or more of the same?

De Conti, B., Herr, H., Jha, P., & Nettekoven, Z. (2023). Macroeconomic policy and policy spaces during the Covid-19-pandemic – case studies from Germany, Brazil and India.

Gräf, H., & Topuria, S. (2023). The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Industrial Policy in Germany and the European Union – The case of the automotive industry.

Handley, L., & Martin, A. (2023). Variegated Capitalism as an approach for understanding globalization in the wake of COVID-19.

Teipen, C., Jha, P., & De Conti, B. (2023). Dynamics in the automotive industry in Germany, Brazil and India – changes triggered by the Covid-19-pandemic.