Robert Vonk appointed as Professor by Special Appointment for History of Social Security
Since 1 October 2023, Robert Vonk holds the special chair of History of Social Security. “This newly endowed chair focuses on the development of social security in the Netherlands in an international perspective”, Vonk says.
Social security in the Netherlands
“In my research, I intend to focus on the role international organisations have played in shaping ideas about social security,” Vonk explains, “and the impact this has had on policy-making and implementation issues in the Netherlands. And also how Dutch policy-making in this area compared to our neighbouring countries.”
“In addressing the challenges facing the social security system in the Netherlands, knowledge about its history is essential” Vonk believes. “The challenges not only have historical parallels, but the past is also the foundation on which new arrangements will be built.”
Community Engaged Learning
Within education, Vonk is particularly interested in Community Engaged Learning. “Discussions about social security are not just technical. They also deal with big questions: what is equitable distribution? What is subsistence security? Who belongs, and who doesn’t?”
How did the current complex tangle of often contradictory schemes, benefits, (tax) rebates, allowances, and concessions arise – in which not only citizens get lost but ironically also the government itself?
“And how did the current complex tangle of often contradictory schemes, benefits, (tax) rebates, allowances, and concessions arise – in which not only citizens get lost but ironically also the government itself? These are great topics not only for research, but also for education.”
Robert Vonk is also a senior adviser at the Council for Public Health & Society (RVS). He studied History at VU Amsterdam. In 2023, he obtained his PhD at VUmc, with a dissertation on the position of private health insurers in the 20th century Dutch health insurance system. Between 2013 and 2020, he worked at National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Social and Economic Council (SER).
Vonk will be part of the Economic and Social History group at the Department of History and Art History. His chair in History of Social Security is made possible by a collaboration between Utrecht University and the Gak Institute.