Whose Guardian? The Transformation of East Asian Welfare Regime

An interesting question in the discussion of welfare regime lies: which population group is the emphasis of welfare state? Widely recognized as productivist model, traditional East Asian welfare regime put expenditure of labour group, linked with human capital investment, as policy priority to maintain "produtivity". However, confronted with speeding ageing in this region, whether this expenditure logic sustain?

Based on this research question, a new approach of intergenerational cleavage, with Elderly/Non-elderly Spending Ratio(ENSR) adopted unprecedentedly as core indicator, is developed to evaluate East Asian welfare regime transformation. The assumptions lie: if the welfare expenditure is focusing on investment population group ( labour and children), productivist regime remains; Otherwise, I would claim that East Asian has stepped into post-productivist era.

Research results suggest: 1) East Asian welfare regime expands its coverage of social security system from class-specific occupations to the extended redistributive system; 2) Regime development deeply involves in the population discourse; 3) Imbalanced regional development is profoundly presented:  compared with Japan and Taiwan, which enter the post-productivist welfare regime, China and Malaysia still maintain the characteristic of welfare policy producvist. Further study of social security budget demonstrates that South Korea has transformed to post-productivist welfare regime to some extent.

The determinants for regional cleavage can be categorized into economic modernization, political democratization and aging. 1) Rapid economic growth enables resources allocation extending to non-productivity population. 2) Grey power significantly takes efforts. As bargaining chip to attract middle votes, political parties complete to provide greater benefits to old people. 3) Traditional East Asian welfare regime was 'reluctant' to respond to aging pressure, however, it is 'forced' to change the policy direction, as well as the whole regime.

Full paper download: 4.1.1 Xiaofang Wu.pdf