10th EASP Annual Conference Report: Managing Rapid Social Change and Growing Diversity

The 10th EASP (East Asian Social Policy Network) International Annual Conference was held at the Beijing Normal University, China on ‘Managing Rapid Social Change and Growing Diversity: Social Policy Responses and Changing Governance in East Asia’ from 11th-12th of July, 2013. Over 140 delegates from more than 11 countries participated from across Asia, Europe, Australasia and North America. The internationally spread participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and 4 parallel sessions were opened with 11 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. Ka Ho Mok (EASP Committee chair) who warmly welcomed the participants and also highlighted that it was the first time to hold the EASP conference in mainland China.

The plenary session was opened with a round table session, chaired by Dr. Sophia Seung-yoon Lee (Secretary of EASP, Ewha Womans University, Rep. Korea), set a broad ranging tone for the event. Prof. Alfred Chan (Lingnan University, Hongkong) made a presentation titled “Challenges and lessons learned for population ageing in the Asia pacific: moving forward with an active ageing policy framework”. He explained that in the Asia Pacific region, many countries have experienced significant increase in life-expectancy and it has become an issue of concern due mainly to the rapid increase of aged population combined with the ever-decreasing fertility rate. He especially introduced policy directives initiated by key international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO) & United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and how these agencies have engaged in visionary initiatives to understand and meet the challenges of the aging population by promoting active ageing in the region.

Prof. Zhang Xiulan (Beijing Normal University, China) presented on major challenges that policy makers in China are facing in creating and managing social service system in a context of rapid social, economic, demographic, epidemiological and technological transitions. She reviewed the innovations in governance, technology and social services in China and highlighted the design and implementation of the innovative practices should integrate the government-private-social sector innovations.

Lastly, Prof. Xiong Yuegen (Peking University, China) made his presentation with a title “Social change and social policy responses in the making of new welfare regime in China” and compared China to the advanced industrialized societies. He highlighted that social policy as an enterprise in China has undergone a different trajectory affected by its Party-State regime, drastic social changes and subtle process of policy formulation. He especially discussed on the central concepts of Chinese welfare regime, ethical order in policy, state-capacity, institutional legitimacy and accountability. In this regard, Prof. Yuegen stressed that in the next decade and beyond, social policy mainly triggered by government will play a more important role in China.

Streamed panel sessions followed the opening plenary with around 60 papers being presented to panels covering a wide range of topics. During the two days conference, in total over 90 papers were presented including post-graduate sessions. The conference as a whole featured eleven paper streams:

  • Education
  • Family and care
  • Health and Well-being
  • Housing
  • Immigration and diversity
  • Ageing society and the elderly
  • Labour Markets
  • Political Economy of Welfare and Welfare regimes
  • Social Protection and Income Maintenance
  • Economic & Environmental Sustainability
  • Governance

Papers presented in these sessions covered a wide range of cases too, covering China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan 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 welfare regimes and welfare types.

A conference dinner followed the completion of sessions in the first day at the Jianweixuan Hall of Jingshi Hotel with delegates invited to further exchange their ideas and build friendships.

The second day of the conference began with two more paper sessions that were devoted to streamed panels. Again a wide range of countries, policy areas, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches featured, ranging from a case study of Shanghai’s path dependence in transformation of medical assistance to urban poor children to the political of social risks in East Asian welfare states. More than 30 papers were presented in the second day constituting around 92 paper presentations in total during the two days conference.

The second day sessions were followed by the second plenary session, chaired by Prof. Jin-young Moon (Sogang University, Rep, Korea) with two presentations. Firstly, Prof. Robert Walker (University of Oxford, UK) discussed on how shame is often experienced as a result of being poor resulting from the inability of people in poverty actively to fulfill their social obligations. Drawing from his research exploring the processes of shaming people in poverty occurring in diverse settings: rural Uganda and India; urban China, South Korea and United Kingdom; and small town and urban Norway, he explained that the analysis generally supports the contention, heard frequently in interviews with people living in poverty, that persons in poverty are generally despised and humiliated by those more affluent than them. Focusing on social assistance in China and South Korea, he stressed that people in poverty have to bear the unproductive consequences of shaming inherent in the framing, structure and implementation of public policy.

Second presentation was followed by Prof. Hsiao-hung Nancy Chen (National Chengchi University Taiwan) who explained the details regarding the dynamics of pension reform in Taiwan. Based on her thorough analysis, she explained that while ‘financial viability’ made current pension reform inevitable ever since 2012, issues such as ‘social equity’ and ‘intergenerational inclusion’ has also caught much concerns during the reform processes for civil servant as well as labors provided that Taiwan has adopted separate pension systems for the citizens. Prof. Chen also discussed on the stakeholders’ position such as the state, congress, scholar, civil servants, labors and the media. Likewise the first plenary session, many questions and answers were exchanged after the two presentations and the debate was also vibrant facilitated by Prof. Moon.

Following the plenary session, Prof. Zhang Xiulan (Beijing Normal University, China) made closing remarks to thanks to attendees for participating in the conference and lastly, Professor Ka-Ho Mok, the Chair of EASP 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 team at Beijing Normal University and also Dr. Sophia Seung-yoon Lee for her work regarding the organization of the conference.

The venue for the conference in 2014 will be announced towards the end of the year.

Posted in Reports