The 14th EASP Annual Conference Report: ‘East Asian Social Policy in a Changing Environment: Comparisons, Visions and Futures’

Nagoya University

Japan, August 2-3, 2017

The 14th EASP (East Asian Social Policy Research Network) Annual International Conference was held at the Toyoda Auditorium, Nagoya University on 2-3 August 2017. The theme of the conference was ‘East Asian Social Policy in a Changing Environment: Comparisons, Visions and Futures’. Over 180 delegates from more than 15 countries across different global regions (e.g. Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, UK, USA, Mexico, Thailand, Italy, Australia and Denmark) participated the conference. Such international spread of participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and 2 plenary & 5 parallel sessions with 11 streams were filled with debates informed by a wide range of theoretical, practical and cross-national perspectives. Topics and discussion went well beyond the main theme of ‘changing environment’ which brought new challenges to social policy in East Asia. The conference provided an opportunity for scholars from wide variety of backgrounds and countries to exchange their views and knowledge.

The conference commenced with opening remarks made by Dr. Yasuhiro Kamimura (Conference Organiser, Nagoya University) who warmly welcomed the participants. Additionally, Prof. Koichi Hiraoka (Former President of Japan Association for Social Policy Studies, Ochanomizu University) delivered the welcoming address to celebrate the conference with clear indication of the importance of understanding social policy from a comparative perspective in East Asia, one of the most dynamic and fast-growing part of the world.

The first plenary session chaired by Dr. Yasuhiro Kamimura (Nagoya University, Japan), set a broad ranging tone for the event:

Prof. Shih-Jiun Shi (National Taiwan University, Taiwan) made a presentation titled “Welfare Retrenchment in East Asia: Pension Reforms in Comparative Perspective.” He highlighted the need to shift attention to the changing social politics in terms of positive and negative policy feedback generated by the given institutions. Pension reforms were taken as the prime example, he identified three institutional patterns of pension systems: the statist pension system, the dualist pension system and the individualist pension system. Divides in attitudes toward pensions were identified among different groups alongside age, class and economic sectors in the four cases of Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, though with diverse constellations associated with the impact of the existing institutional settings. The findings offered a preliminary template for understanding the changing dynamics of welfare retrenchment in East Asian social policy.

Prof. Emiko Ochiai (Kyoto University, Japan) then presented a topic entitled “Changing Care Diamonds in Europe and Asia: Asianization of Europe and Europeanization of Asia?” In her speech, she emphasized changing childcare and elderly care provision and finance in relation to the changing role of family, state, market and community in Europe and Asian countries. She discussed welfare retrenchment and refamiliazation in Europe and the development of welfare states in Asia, and reconsidered the phenomenon of “Asianization” and “Europeanization”. She concluded that as far as childcare was concerned, the state sector had expanded and mixed with the market, family and association or community sectors at least in some European countries, playing the roles of regulator and financer, while its role was still limited in Asia.

During the two days conference, in total over 110 papers were presented. The conference as a whole featured 11 paper streams:

  • Welfare State and Welfare Regimes
  • Governance, Democracy and Participation
  • Migration, Citizenship and Diversity
  • Family and Care
  • Health and Well-being
  • Poverty and Social Exclusion
  • Education
  • Ageing and the Life Course
  • Labour Market and Inequality
  • Social Protection
  • Diversity

Papers presented in these sessions covered a wide range of national case studies including that of China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and many offering broader regional comparative analyses. A conference dinner followed the completion of sessions in the first day at the Atrium of Toyoda Auditorium at Nagoya University with delegates invited to further exchange their ideas and build friendships.

The second day of the conference began with five panel sessions that were devoted to streamed panels. Again, a wide range of policy areas, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches was featured, ranging from poverty and social exclusion, social protection to issues about ageing, healthcare and education.

The paper sessions were followed by the second plenary session, chaired by Dr Misa Izuhara (University of Bristol, UK) with two presentations.

Firstly, Dr Sarah Cook (Director, UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti) discussed on “The Sustainable Development Goals and Children: How Well Do East Asian Social Policies Fare in Achieving Global Goals”. She focused on the global agreed sustainable development goals and the role of social policies in achieving outcome for children, based on analysis of key indicators relevant to children across OECD countries, and comparable data on East Asian countries. She explored the potential challenges both in terms of policy and data gaps for making progress against global goals across this region, and examined the implications of different social policy regimes on observed outcomes.

Second and final presentation was by Prof. Yoshinori Hiroi (Kyoto University, Japan) who discussed “Possibility of Sustainable Welfare Societies: Integration of Social Policy and Environmental Policy in the Post-growth Society.” He developed the concept of “sustainable welfare society” combining welfare state models with the continuous economic growth issues, which meant that the concept and discourse of sustainability needed to be incorporated into the discussions and social paradigms of social policy. It also meant that the integrations of social policies dealing with distributional justice and environmental policies dealing with sustainability of human economic activities should be in some way or other designed and pursued. The concept of sustainability has multiple dimensions, including 1) environmental sustainability under the conditions of finite natural resources, 2) financial or institutional sustainability of social protection systems, 3) demographic and inter-generational sustainability in the times of aging population and population decrease, 4) sustainability of work or employment in the age of innovation. Based on such conceptual framework, he explored the possibility of sustainable welfare societies as well as policies to be taken.

In the closing ceremony, Dr Misa Izuhara (the Chair of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network) and Jack Chan (the Secretary of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network) made closing remarks to thank the participants for their contributions at the conference. Special thanks were also expressed to the conference organizing team, in particular, Dr Kamimura and his institution (Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University) and student volunteers for their work regarding the organization of the conference.

The venue for the 2018 conference will be at the University of Bristol (UK) and the exact dates will be announced shortly in the autumn 2017.

Posted in Reports