The Fifth International Conference of East Asia was held at National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan between 3 and 4 November 2008. It was jointly organized by the East Asian Social Policy Research Network (EASP), National Taiwan University and the Taiwanese Association of Social Policy. Generous sponsorship provided by four Taiwan based foundations – the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation, Grateful Social Welfare Foundation, Health, Welfare and Environment Foundation and National Policy Foundation – made the conference both exciting and accessible. The Conference attracted over 200 participants internationally. Around 90 papers were presented together with some poster presentations, recording the remarkable growth of the network within its five-year history.
Under the theme of ‘Welfare Reform in East Asia: Meeting the Needs of Social Change, Economic Competitiveness and Social Justice’, the conference was opened by Professor Hsiao-hung Nancy Chen, President of the Taiwanese Association of Social Policy welcoming all, followed by the first plenary session, presented by Professor Gordon Hou-sheng Chan (National Taiwan University), Professor Nicola Yeates (Open University) and Dr. Martin Seeleib-Kaiser (University of Oxford). Other plenary speakers throughout the conference included Professor Yong-Ik Kim (Seoul National University), Professor Taro Miyamoto (Hokkaido University), Professor Sven E. O. Hort (Södertörn University), Professor Ka Ho Mok (University of Hong Kong), and Professor M. Ramesh (University of Hong Kong).
All presentations were of extremely high quality, and provided much material to consider for our understanding of social policy development in a global context in general and in the East Asian region in particular. Professor Chan discussed the introduction of national pension in Taiwan which was implemented from 1 October 2008 for those who were not covered by previous schemes, arguing that Taiwan needs a universal national pension scheme that cuts across different occupational sectors. Professor Yeates discussed the appeal of methodological transnationalism in a global context, while Dr. Seeleib-Kaiser examined welfare states transformations in comparative perspectives. In a second plenary session, Professor Kim examined the Korea’s experience of reducing poverty with particular reference to the previous Roh Moo-Hyun administration while Professor Miyamoto discussed the sustainability of the male employment oriented regime in Japan. This was followed by the final plenary session where Professor Hort discussed the thorny issues regarding citizenship and (de-) commodification and Professor Mok and Professor Ramesh presented their comparative study on demographic and socio-economic change and welfare reforms in Hong Kong and Singapore, challenging whether these two countries are still productive.
During the two day conference, there were four paper sessions, each of which consisted of five to six streams running in parallel. A wide range of issues was discussed throughout, including domestic violence, managing competing demands in East Asia, the institutional complementarities of welfare and production regimes, and social inclusion and exclusion. A team of researchers involved in developing the East Asian Database Project (EADP), which was launched in October 2007, also presented their progress in compiling comparative data in the East Asian region (for further information contact Naoko Soma, Yokohama National University at firstname.lastname@example.org).
On the evening of the first day, the conference dinner was held at Leader Hotel where Professor Shogo Takegawa (University of Tokyo) announced the end of his two-year term as a chair of the EASP and welcomed Professor Jin-Young Moon (Sogang University) as his successor. Under the Professor Moon’s leadership, the EASP committee members were also re-organized with Dr. Junko Yamashita (University of Bristol) playing a secretarial role. All the newly appointed members are to serve for two years (for further information visit http://www.welfareasia.org/contact/).
The conference was highly successful not least because it attracted a record-breaking number of participants from all around the world (including the UK, the USA, Sweden, Finland, Mexico, Hungary, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, and China). Excellent venue, generous funding, high-profile plenary speakers and above all, a large number of quality papers made the conference more than an exciting gathering of those who share the passion for social policy development in East Asia. It provided an excellent forum for exchanging ideas on timely issues of changing social needs and global economic competitiveness in the region. For those who would like to join the EASP mailing list, please visit http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=easp
Gyu-Jin Hwang (University of Sydney)