New Social Risks and Welfare State Restructuring in South Korea and Taiwan

In advanced industrial welfare democracies the demographic, social, and economic transformation entailed new social risks, which are insufficiently covered by the existing social protection schemes. This not only raised questions about the financial viability of existing welfare commitments and resulted in welfare retrenchment, but also contributed to "another" welfare expansion against new social risks mentioned above. In middle-income countries of Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe that underwent epochal political and economic changes in the 1980s and 1990s, the democratization raised hopes that new democratic governments would be more attentive to social issues, while economic crisis and market reforms entailed serious social dislocations and raised questions about the sustainability of social spending and new welfare commitments in the face of severe fiscal constraints. Based on a theoretical approach integrating development approaches, political institutions and welfare legacies, this paper analyzes welfare restructuring in South Korea and Taiwan that experienced beyond the economic and political transformations old and new social risks in the last two decades. The welfare restructuring changed the logic and function of their social protection systems and made them as newly emerging welfare states. However, these two welfare democracies spend too many resources on old risks while not addressing the most pressing problems of post-industrial society, though in varying degrees. This will cast serious doubt on the continuity of the "growth with equity" which is of special importance for underpinning further welfare system adaptation to a profoundly altered economic and social context.