The 13 th EASP Annual Conference Report: ‘Social Policy and Gender in East Asia’

Department of Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University,
South Korea, July 1-2, 2016

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The 13th EASP (East Asian Social Policy Network) International Annual Conference was held at the Department of Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University, on ‘Social Policy and Gender in East Asia’ from 1 to 2 of July, 2016. Over 170 delegates from more than 15 countries and regions participated from across Asia, Europe, Australasia, and North America (South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, USA, Nepal, Thailand, Italy, Australia, Canada, Denmark). The internationally spread participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and 2 plenary & 5 parallel sessions were opened with 9 streams of discussion informed by a wide range of theoretical, practical and cross-national perspectives. Topics and discussion went well beyond a concern with the specifics of social policy in particular East Asian nations and the conference provided an opportunity for scholars from wide variety of background and countries to exchange their views and knowledge.

The conference commenced with opening remarks made by Prof. Soondool Chung (Dean of School of Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University) who warmly welcomed the participants and also highlighted that it was the first time to host the EASP conference at a Womans University. Additionally, Prof. Choong Rai Nho (Head of Institute for Social Welfare Research, Ewha Womans University) delivered the second opening remark to celebrate the conference with clear indication of the importance of understanding social policy and gender in East Asia, one of the most dynamic and fast growing part of the world.

The first plenary session was opened with a round table session, chaired by Prof. Minah Kang (Ewha Womans University), set a broad ranging tone for the event.

Prof. Mari Miura (Sophia University, Japan) made a presentation titled “The Trilemma of the Care Economy: Possible Paths of Japan.” She explained the trilemma of the care economy in Japan by saying that although employers increasingly rely on women’s labor forces, they refuse any increase in wages and tax burden. She particularly emphasized the level of reduction in tax and social contribution, however, does not match up with the amount of unpaid work, which is basically justified by strong motherhood norm. Also, she mentioned that Japan’s ambivalent approach to women’s activation stems from its past strategy. While the caregiver parity model contradicts with the government’s current goal to increase women’s employment and managers, strong motherhood hinders Japan from embracing either the universal breadwinner model or the universal caregiver model.

Prof. Joohee Lee (Ewha Womans University) presented secondly a topic entitled “The East Asian Miracle and the Wollstonecraft Dilemma: In Search for a New Paradigm of Gender Egalitarian Social Rights.” In her speech, she emphasized that the experiences of woman somewhat differed from country to country, but there were overall patterns. Also, she stated that the East Asian miracle has been a fully gendered process. It was young unmarried women who provided cheap labor critical for the development of labor-intensive export industries. Finally, she provided implications by saying that Neoliberal labor market reforms following the financial crisis found a new role for women.

During the two days conference, in total over 90 papers were presented. The conference as a whole featured 9 paper streams:

  • Welfare State, Welfare Regimes & Governance
  • Family and Care
  • Health & Well-being
  • Social Protection & Income Maintenance
  • Migration & Diversity
  • Ageing Society & the Elderly
  • Labor Market & Inequality
  • Housing
  • Graduate Student Session

Papers presented in these sessions covered a wide range of cases too, covering China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and many offering broader regional analyses, comparing East Asian nations with western cases or presenting broad comparative analyses the included analysis of East Asian cases alongside a broader consideration of policy types and welfare regimes.

A conference dinner followed the completion of sessions in the first day at the LG Convention Hall at Ewha Womans University with delegates invited to further exchange their ideas and build friendships.

The second day of the conference began with four panel sessions that were devoted to streamed panels. Again a wide range of countries, policy areas, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches featured, ranging from public housing policies and women’s experiences living in rental flats in Singapore to female characteristics and changes: The construction of women’s health on Chinese magazine. About 14 presentations were done in the second day constituting around 90 paper presentations in total during the two days conference.

The second day sessions were followed by the second plenary session, chaired by Prof. Junko Yamashita (University of Bristol, UK) with two presentations.

Firstly, Prof. Dayoung Song (Incheon National University, South Korea) discussed on “Developmentalism and Stratified and Gendered Limitation of Korean Social Care Policy.” She stated that social service policy expansion to guarantee socialization of care is necessary for the protection of children’s right to be cared and women’s economic participation. In her talk, she said that it is the time to escape from constantly repeated economic growth, development, competition, efficiency and quantity and speed-oriented logical frame. Finally, Prof. Song described that standing before a moment in which social service policy for care socialization becomes full-fledged as an axis for social welfare state, Korea needs to establish the policy foundation for sustainable society from a long term perspective not seized by developmentalism and familialism, the vestiges of old era.

Second presentation was followed by Prof. Prof. Misa Izuhara (University of Bristol, UK) who explained “Women and Housing in Post-Growth Society: Policy rhetoric and reality.” The main objectives of her presentation were first to highlight women’s housing fortunes linking to perpetuated gendered social norms and institutions. How housing inequalities are manifested in tenure patterns and asset ownership of women by their marital status was also examined. Additionally, she discussed the contemporary gap between policy rhetoric and reality by exploring the link between housing and fertility. Finally, she concluded that policy measures needed to start recognising women as individuals instead of dependents to their husband and parents in order to alleviate housing inequalities in post-growth society.

Following the 2nd plenary session, during closing ceremony, two organizations (EASP & Academy of Critical Social Weflare, South Korea) signed the MOU to develop formal research collaborations between them. Finally, Prof. Nok Kinglun (EASP President) made closing remarks to thanks to attendees for participating in the conference. Also, Dr. Bum Jung Kim (EASP secretary) closed the conference by explaining the past activities of EASP during the year and also introducing the upcoming activities. Special thanks were also expressed to the conference organizing team, in particular, Dept. Social Welfare, Ewha Womans University (Dr. Sophia Lee) and student volunteers for their work regarding the organization of the conference.

The venue for the conference in 2017 will be in Japan at Nagoya University and will be announced officially at the end of this year.

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