Abstracts & Papers in Stream 4

Self-sufficiency has been one of the longstanding moral beliefs in East Asian societies. Without relying on formal institutions, economic self-reliance has been regarded as 'most desirable' in terms of meeting individual welfare needs. Accordingly, it is not surprising that the role of informal institutions such as family and community has played a significant role in providing welfare since the pre-industrial period. In the phase of industrialization, the notion of self-sufficiency was even strengthened due to the idea of developmentalism associated with the Confucian tradition. The thesis of productivist welfare capitalism representing growth-oriented paradigm with low welfare efforts by governments (Holliday 2000) can explain the persistent importance of self-sufficiency in East Asian societies.

While it is true that self-sufficiency is still an important underlying logic, it seems that rapid socio-economic changes have brought the old concept of self-sufficiency to an end. The old concept, though hardly systematically studied, is largely based on male-breadwinner model with special attention to employment and education. In other words, the unit of self-sufficiency has been, more often than not, a family sustained by men's labor. However, a number of newly emerging factors undermines the old type of self-sufficiency; post-industrializing industrial structure, ageing, increasing women's labor market participation, destabilizing full-employment labor market with life-long employment practice, and weakening family solidarity. In this context, this paper aims to recalibrate the concept of 'self-sufficiency' in post-industrializing East Asian welfare regimes. More specifically, while self-sufficiency is without losing productive components, the paper will argue that its scope should be extended further from employment and education to five sub-concepts; employment, education, childcare, disability, and minimum livelihood. In addition to proposing a set of key indicators for self-sufficiency, it will demonstrate how useful the new concept of self-sufficiency is for understanding changing East Asian societies.

The Take-up of Social Assistance: A Survey in a Southern Taiwan City

Social assistance in considered a residual system of welfare. However, it is the last resort of many disadvantaged. Therefore, it is important to maximize the likelihood of benefit delivering to those who are in financial difficulties. One of the vital points to achieve this goal is to promote the talk-up of benefits. Despite the importance of take-up in social assistance, it is rarely studied in Taiwan.

This paper draws the data from a large-scale survey conducted in Tainan, a southern Taiwan city, to explore the take-up of social assistance. The survey was conducted in 2010, and 754 low-income households were successfully interviewed. The results show that low-income people get the information about benefits from different sources. People in different low-income categories and living in different districts receive information from different sources. In addition, people living in different districts have different levels of likelihood of receiving help in the application process. These imply the impact of social capital and administrative factors on take-up. This study also finds a widespread worry among the applicants about the complexity of the application process. This paper concludes by addressing the importance of providing information and assistance to low-income people in application process to improve the take-up of social assistance.

In April 2006, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region launched the New Dawn Project (ND).  It is specifically designed as a workfare programme for single parents and child carers (mostly married women who take care of their children at home) on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA, a social security programme for low-income households) whose youngest children are aged 12 to 14.  It aims to assist the participants to enhance their capacity for self-help, integrate into the community and move towards self-reliance through engagement in work.  These CSSA recipients are required to join the ND Project to actively seek paid employment with working hours of not less than 32 per month; otherwise a penalty of HK$200 will be enforced from the CSSA payments except for those with special circumstances, such as having health problems, or additional caring responsibilities.  By the end of August 2009, a total of 17,448 CSSA recipients had participated in the Project, and 5,203 of them (30%) had secured paid jobs.  The Social Welfare Department had commissioned The University of Hong Kong to conduct an evaluation study in 2007, and an extension study was completed in 2009.  The findings showed that the majority of the Project participants indicated that their participation in the Project had positive effect on their family income, quality of life and self-confidence.  Most of them also thought that the requirement on working hours (32 hours per month) was reasonable and most parent-child relationships were not affected.  Supplemented with the data collected from the study mentioned above, this paper will explore what considerations would the single parent CSSA recipients take in choosing to work or stay out of the job market beside the mandatory requirements imposed by the government. It will also situate the discussion within Hong Kong's special demography background, drastic economic restructuring, distortion of the labour market, and the limited protection of labour regulations and social security system. 
Although the original policy framework for the MLSS designed by the central government in mainland China had no clear-cut idea of workfare, its changing attitudes expressed in policy documents thereafter had encouraged local governments to embrace workfare measures at their discretions. Local governments have introduced a range of measures corresponding with the idea of workfare, such as "work first", training and financial incentives to require the MLSS recipients seek jobs and improve employability.
The flawed mechanisms of the MLSS, such as gap-filling style income support scheme, the attached benefits to the MLSS recipient and the neglecting of the family size's impact on living expenses may partially justify the local governments' workfare measures. But taking the subsistence level of the MLSS benefit and the unregistered employment of the recipients into consideration, the workfare measures are just a reaction to an illusion of welfare dependency.
In practice, the idea of "activation", particularly providing training and/or financial incentive measures to assist the unemployed, is lagging far behind the idea of "work first", for example, punishing those refuse to work or not showing willingness to get re-employed. With such a creeping conditionality, the MLSS has been experiencing a complex shift from a "moderate protectivist" scheme to an "aggressive productivist" one in some major cities in China.
Unlike the introduction of workfare as the reaction to the welfare dependence in other countries, the local governments' initiatives of workfare in mainland China is mostly motivated by the spending reining incentive of this general tax financed income maintenance pregame. The decentralization of social expenditure responsibility to local governments without sound fiscal transfer payment resulted in the fiscal pressure of social assistance and social welfare program. And more important, without sound accountability in local governance, the citizenship is "conditional" and unprotective.