Social policy in East Asia: Between productivism and social investment

Shih Jiunn SHI, Stefan KÜHNER

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


Productivism used to be a catchword for the East Asian welfare capitalism, denoting the latter’s priority of resource allocation on economic development over social redistribution. This logic of political economy has been challenged on several fronts ranging from economic globalization, political democratization, and social changes. Social investment that emphasizes human-capital cultivation instead of income maintenance seems to be emerging as a new direction of current social policy reforms. The present study argues that, while major East Asian welfare states have introduced social investment reforms, the ways in which they unfold indicate a growing magnitude of institutional diversity. South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are taken as examples to demonstrate the different paths that East Asian welfare states have trodden in response to the new social risks. Major factors that account for the variety of social investment reforms are: Political advocacy coalitions that favor/discourage policy change, production regimes that shape the public-private social provision, and the existing social security systems that place constraints on the political/social actors involved when it comes to policy reforms. The analysis results point to important implications for understanding current development of East Asian social policy, namely the increasing heterogeneity in institutional building and –restructuring. Concepts such as productivism and social investment may no longer suffice to catch the essence of a changing landscape. In urgent needed is a nuanced perspective sensitive to the variation of institutional reconfiguration in East Asian social policy.


ConferenceThe 17th Annual Conference of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network & The 27th Annual Conference of the Foundation for International Studies on Social Security
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Social policy in East Asia: Between productivism and social investment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this