chapter  16
16 Pages

Social policy in East Asia

ByM. Ramesh

It is necessary to dispel two commonly held myths before one can discuss social policy in East Asia. First, we need to set aside the assumption that there is some typical welfare model that describes all or even most countries in the region. The region is an extraordinarily diverse place – in terms of history, culture, politics, economy and so on – and the diversity is reflected in its social policies. The second myth that needs to be dispelled is that the region is a social policy laggard. This perception is based largely on the observation of low government spending on social policy and anti-welfare proclamations of some government leaders in the region. While countries in the region do spend less than countries with similar income levels elsewhere, there are reasons other than policy that account for the difference. A related, and equally misleading, perception is that governments in the region emphasize economic development over social development. All capitalist societies, in Asia and elsewhere, emphasize economic policy and deviate only when politically unavoidable – there is nothing particularly unique about Asia in this regard (Ramesh 2000).