Handbook on East Asian Social Policy
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Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

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.
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Chapter 4: Past policies, current arrangements: the enduring influence of British colonial social policy in Malaysia and Hong Kong

Kevin Caraher


The formal handover of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997 marked the end of British colonial involvement in East Asia. Hong Kong became a special administrative region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, and more than 150 years of British rule came to an end. Malaysia had already gained its independence some 40 years earlier and has transformed itself from an agricultural-based economy into a diversified and rapidly developing economy. However, although they are very different in many respects in terms of ethnic make-up, geographical location and size, social policy in both Malaysia and Hong Kong presents clear examples of past policy decisions continuing to influence and shape post-colonial policy trajectories. Although the term ‘East Asia’ is often geographically restricted to states such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China (see also Chapter 1 in this volume), this chapter utilizes a looser definition of East Asia and incorporates a wider region to include South-East Asia, which, in common with those states above, has produced high-performing economies based upon manufacture-based export growth. In what was then Malaya, the clear aim of the colonial administrators was to promote and sustain economic returns for the expatriate managerial and mercantile classes, often (if not always) at the expense of the indigenous population, though even here this was differentiated according to ethnicity and gender.

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