Analyzing the productive dimensions of welfare : looking beyond East Asia


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John Hudson and Stefan Kühner Introduction Following the publication of Esping-Andersen’s (1990) classic The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, the comparative social policy literature has been dominated by the welfare state modelling debate. One of the thorniest questions here has been how best to classify the East Asian states. Indeed, an early criticism of Esping-Andersen’s work was that it had misunderstood – and therefore misclassified – Japan, the only East Asian nation included in his typology (Esping-Andersen, 1997). While, as Esping-Andersen (1999) acknowledges, all classifications rely on simplified ideal types that cannot fully capture the complex reality of actual welfare regimes, several theorists – most notably Holliday (Holliday, 2000, 2005; Holliday and Wilding, 2003; Kwon and Holliday, 2007) – have argued that social policy regimes in East Asia can be seen as distinct from the three welfare regime types articulated by Esping-Andersen because of their productive – rather than protective – intent. This is a bold claim that presents a direct challenge to dominant approaches in the welfare modelling business. Those wishing to test the claim are presented with some significant challenges, however. Firstly, there are conceptual challenges. Following Esping-Andersen’s lead, the overwhelming emphasis of the welfare regimes debate has been on how nations may be classified into distinct worlds of welfare largely on the basis of the varying strength of protective social rights (see Hudson and Kühner, 2009). Indeed, Esping-Andersen’s original work (1990) focused only on traditional social protections and even his subsequent revisions (Esping-Andersen, 1999) did not add an analysis of education or labour market training policies in order lo capture the productive intent of social policy. If Holliday's (2000, 2005) claim that East Asian welfare regimes emphasize the productive dimensions of welfare is correct, then most existing classifications of welfare regimes cannot assign East Asian cases in a meaningful fashion. A rethinking of the basis of welfare regime types that combines both protective and productive elements is therefore necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNew welfare states in East Asia : global challenges and restructuring
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9781849807524
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Asian social policy
  • Asian studies
  • comparative social policy
  • social policy and sociology
  • welfare states


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