chapter  1
Understanding workfare in Western and East Asian welfare states: Chak Kwan Chan
Pages 11

Many Western welfare states have adopted workfare as their dominant approach to provide welfare services. This has made social security conditional, with welfare beneficiaries having to fulfil assigned duties in order to receive their benefits. Traditional pro-welfare social democratic parties in Europe and the United States (US), as well as pro-market conservative parties, now support this approach to welfare provision (Lodemel & Trickey 2000a). Welfare reforms based on the ideology of workfare have occurred in all the countries in Western Europe (Handler 2003) and, since the mid-1990s, the European Union (EU) has regarded activation, which refers to activating the incentive to work among unemployed people, as the ‘cornerstone of social policy development’ (Lodemel & Trickey 2000b: 14). The impact of workfare has not been restricted to Western capitalist states.

An increasing number of Asian countries have introduced welfare-to-work measures since the late 1990s. Asia’s socioeconomic conditions are different from those in Europe, however, so it is important to examine why East Asian welfare states have introduced workfare and what the main features of their workfare measures are. The first part of this introductory chapter therefore critically examines the socioeconomic factors contributing to the implementation of workfare in Western capitalist states. It then points out the nature of East Asian welfare states and this book’s key concerns.