1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Social Policy and Development Programme Paper 22: Transforming the Developmental Welfare State in East Asia

18 Nov 2005

How can we explain continuity and change in the developmental welfare states in the Republic of Korea and China (Taiwan Province) within the East Asian context?

The author of this paper first elaborates two strands of welfare developmentalism (selective versus inclusive) and establishes that both Korea and China (Taiwan Province) fell into the selective category of developmental welfare states before the Asian economic crisis of 1997–1998. The key principles of the selective strand of welfare developmentalism are productivism, selective social investment and authoritarianism; inclusive welfare development is based on productivism, universal social investment and democratic governance.

Policy reform toward an inclusive welfare state in Korea and China (Taiwan Province) was triggered by the need for structural reform in the economy, writes the author. The need for economic reform, together with democratization, created institutional space in policy making for advocacy coalitions, which made successful advances toward greater social rights. Finally, the author argues that the experiences of Korea and China (Taiwan Province) counter the neoliberal assertion that the role of social policy is minor in economic development. The idea of an inclusive developmental welfare state should be explored in the wider context of economic and social development, he writes.

Huck-ju Kwon was Research Coordinator at UNRISD from February 2002 through February 2005. He is now Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration, Sung Kyun Kwan University, Republic of Korea.

Order SPD PP 22 from UNRISD, 15 pages, 2005; US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students.