The Welfare State in Japan and China: Development and Challenges

  • Christian Aspalter


In this chapter I examine the different stages of welfare state development in Japan and mainland China, and discuss current challenges forcing the welfare state systems in these two countries. It may serve as a source for comparison of social policy practices in both countries, since it reveals striking similarities in the attitudes of the governments of Japan and China (after 1978) towards dependency-generating and potentially laziness-producing social assistance programmes. As White, Goodman and Kwon1 have noticed, the Chinese welfare state system is becoming more and more similar to that of its neighbouring countries. The study here may also serve for a closer look at the similarities between the ‘iron rice bowl system’ (tie fan wan) of Communist China and the occupational welfare system in Japan which both create exceptionally strong company–labour relationships and which both lack risk-pooling and disrespect the needs of the labour market and a healthy economy because there is no firing of those workers and employees profiting from these systems. Moreover, both welfare systems cover only a very limited segment of the workforce, and represent special variants of a wageearners’ welfare state. In analysing the subject matter, I apply a historical case study approach; after giving a historical review of welfare state development in Japan and China, the essay encapsulates the major changes of the welfare state systems and goes on to focus on the present and potential challenges to them.


Social Security Welfare State Welfare System Pension System Liberal Democratic Party 
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Copyright information

© Christian Aspalter 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Aspalter
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social WelfareSeoul National UniversitySeoulKorea
  2. 2.Department of Social Work and Social AdministrationUniversity of Hong KongHong Kong
  3. 3.Research Centre on Societal and Social PolicyHong Kong

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