The Small Welfare State
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The Small Welfare State

Rethinking Welfare in the US, Japan, and South Korea

Edited by Jae-jin Yang

In a period of rapid change for welfare states around the world, this insightful book offers a comparative study of three historically small welfare states: the US, Japan, and South Korea. Featuring contributions from international distinguished scholars, this book looks beyond the larger European welfare states to unpack the many common political and institutional characteristics that have constrained welfare state development in industrialized democracies.
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Chapter 2: Narrowly organized labor and the failure of solidarity-enhancing welfare in the United States and South Korea

Dennie Oude Nijhuis and Jae-jin Yang


Compared to many of their counterparts in continental Western Europe, the American and Korean labor union movements have proven to be much less committed to the development of solidaristic welfare programs that adequately cater for all wage earners, including the least privileged. According to conventional wisdom, this behavior was primarily the result of their political weakness. This chapter argues that the weak commitment of the American and Korean labor union movements to the development of solidaristic welfare programs cannot be attributed solely to their weak power resources. What also matters is the fact that both union movements were organized in a narrow manner for privileged workers. This illustrates how union membership composition shaped the attitudes of the American and Korean labor movements towards welfare, as well as the welfare outcomes in the two countries.

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