Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 8: Welfare Policy Reforms in Japan and Korea: Cultural and Institutional Factors
Ito Peng Scholars engaged in comparative welfare state research on East Asian countries face two critical problems. First, the mainstream understanding of East Asian welfare states often takes superﬁcial notion of East Asian culture as a theoretical platform from which to examine these welfare regimes. Indeed, frequently notions such as Confucian values have been used to explain what are often thought as the unique characteristics of East Asian welfare systems – a strong sense of work ethics, emphasis on education and self-discipline, ﬁlial piety, gender role division, and respect for the elders and authority (Jones, 1990, 1993; Sung, 2003).1 Although there is no denying that certain features of East Asian welfare systems, such as the lack of state provisions for the family and personal social services, and policy emphasis on the elderly rather than children, do appear to cohere with some tenets of Confucian principles, these features are, on a closer examination, by no means unique to East Asia, nor is there clear evidence of causal relationship between Confucian values and policy outcomes.2 The second problem associated with comparative welfare state studies of East Asia, and particularly for those who are interested in examining the impacts of culture on welfare states, is that the current understanding of culture is too unclear and amorphous. As a result, even though many scholars do recognize the inﬂuence of culture on political processes and policy preferences (Lipset, 1990), many eschew overt cultural explanation. In this chapter, I deﬁne welfare state culture...
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