New Welfare States in East Asia

New Welfare States in East Asia

Global Challenges and Restructuring

Edited by Gyu-Jin Hwang

The fast changing economic climate is creating substantial pressure for welfare state restructuring worldwide. Yet the discussion regarding challenges faced and the responses required has been confined to the ‘standard welfare states’ in the West. This book examines whether these challenges also apply to the countries in the East, whether these countries have generated different responses to their Western counterparts, and whether they have undergone a process of regime transformation while responding to these pressures.

Chapter 2: The Welfare Modelling Business Revisited: The Case of East Asian Welfare Regimes

Peter Abrahamson

Subjects: asian studies, asian social policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


1 Peter Abrahamson The conventional wisdom in public-policy circles is that East Asia is a region of social-policy laggards. The generalization is not only false, it betrays the vast differences that characterize the region. (Ramesh, 2004: 1) Contrary to the anticipation of many globalization theorists, social protection was extended in terms of coverage and strengthened in terms of quality of provision in some East Asian economies. (Kwon, 2009: S19) Introduction Discussing the welfare modelling business and focusing on East Asia a decade ago two distinctly different perspectives prevailed (Abrahamson, 1999). One was that there existed a particular Confucian welfare society which was said to describe accurately the development in the region: its features being an emphasis on family obligations, education and social harmony. This view was promoted by Catherine Jones Finer (1993) and Arthur Gould (1993), among others. The other perspective, promoted by Gøsta Esping-Andersen (1997) held that Japan as a representative of East Asia could adequately be described as a hybrid between the European conservative welfare state regime and the Atlantic liberal welfare state regime, its features being corporate social policies combined with strong reliance on market and family. Since then a significant conceptual development has occurred, but there is no consensus about how to label the welfare regime of East Asia; but in general the idea of a Confucian welfare regime type has been abandoned: ‘the explanatory power of Confucianism has been overemphasized with reference to both the past and the present of welfare regimes in East...

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