Table of Contents

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Elgar original reference

Edited by Misa Izuhara

Dramatic socio-economic transformations over the last two decades have brought social policy and social welfare issues to prominence in many East Asian societies. Since the 1990s and in response to national as well as global pressure, there have been substantial developments and reforms in social policy in the region but the development paths have been uneven. Until recently, comparative analysis of East Asian social policy tends to have focused on the established welfare state of Japan and the emerging welfare regimes of four ‘Tiger Economies’. Much of the recent debate indeed preceded China’s re-emergence onto the world economy. In this context, this Handbook brings China more fully into the contemporary social policy debates in East Asia. Organised around five themes from welfare state developments, to theories and methodologies, to current social policy issues, the Handbook presents original research from leading specialists in the fields, and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy.

Chapter 13: Gender and welfare states in East Asia: women between tradition and equality

Sir in Sung

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, development studies, asian development, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


East Asia has achieved rapid economic development since the 1960s and1970s. With the remarkable economic development, some countries have also gone through major social change. This has brought some social benefits to women, such as increasing their participation in the labour market, lengthening their life expectancy and instigating gender equality legislation. Despite such positive changes, women still face inequalities with in the family and society, including the gender pay gap and the unequal time they spend on unpaid work. Although many scholars have debated on the distinctive features of East Asian welfare states (see Chapters 1 and 10 of this volume), an exploration of the welfare systems of East Asian countries from a gender perspective is yet to be carried out. This chapter thus examines the gendered assumptions of welfare states in East Asian countries by paying particular attention to women’s experiences of unpaid care work. With regard to traditions, Confucianism has long been considered as an important cultural heritage in East Asia. While some positive aspects of Confucian culture encouraged the achievement of rapid economic growth, others augmented a patriarchal structure in business and society which may have resulted in unequal gender relations. Confucianism lays down clear traditional gender roles within the family, such as married women’s responsibility for their parents-in-law and women’s subordination to men (Sung, 2003).

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