An Overview of the Study: The Developmental Welfare State and Policy Reforms in East Asia

  • Huck-ju Kwon
Part of the Social Policy in a Development Context book series (SPDC)


The welfare states1 in East Asia have undergone significant changes since the Asian economic crisis of 1997-8. New social programmes were introduced and existing ones were strengthened through reforms. In consequence, state institutions, and the welfare state in particular, play a greater role amid instability and flexibility in the globalized market. These changes seem to counter the neo-liberal argument that market-driven globalization renders the welfare state of marginal importance in economic life (e.g. Ohmae 1995; Beck 2000). Although there have been counter arguments to this assertion regarding European experience (e.g. Pierson 1998), the welfare reforms in East Asia have provided an important example that social inclusion can go hand in hand with economic development. What are the underlying dynamics of such reform, and are there policy implications in the development context? To answer these questions, UNRISD (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development) launched a research project2 on social policy reform in East Asia, covering Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China and Thailand. The researchers participating in this project are equipped with first-hand experience and in-depth knowledge about the countries concerned, as well as methodological rigour. This book is an outcome of the research project and structured into three parts. Part I examines the politics of welfare developmentalism in East Asia, in which economic imperatives for reforms were transformed into social policy reform, while Part II analyses the institutional dynamics of welfare developmentalism.


Welfare State National Health Insurance Welfare Reform Democratic Progressive Party Advocacy Coalition 
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© UNRISD 2005

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  • Huck-ju Kwon

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