The 11th EASP Annual Conference Report: Managing Changing Welfare Needs in a Growing Transborder East Asia

The 11th EASP (East Asian Social Policy Network) International Annual Conference was held at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA on ‘Managing Changing Welfare Needs in a Growing Transborder East Asia: Social Policy Responses’ from 24 to 25 of July, 2014. Over 120 delegates from more than 10 countries participated from across Asia, Europe, Australasia and North America. The internationally spread participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and 5 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 Former-President) who warmly welcomed the participants and also highlighted that it was the first time to hold the EASP conference in North American, USA. Also, Prof. Sang-Hyop Lee (Director of Center for Korean Studies at University of Hawaii at Manoa) delivered the second opening remark to celebrate the conference with clear indication of the importance of understanding social issues in East Asia, one of the most dynamic and growing part of the world.

The plenary session was opened with a round table session, chaired by Dr. Bum Jung Kim (Secretary of EASP, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA), set a broad ranging tone for the event.

Prof. Masakazu Shirasawa (Oberlin University, Japan) made a presentation titled “Current Situation and Issues of the Long-term Care Insurance System in Japan”. He explained that with the long-term care insurance system in Japan, pluralistic suppliers have entered long-term care services; the implementing agency has shifted from central government to local governments; the beneficiary is able to select the service of their choice, which is closer to the market mechanism; and the insured and beneficiary are able to participate in policy making. Also, he mentioned that it is noteworthy to say that those effective factors have created a paradigm shift from the government, which is generally a top down, legally binding ruling system by the central government, to governance, as a decision-making and consensus building system in which the community members who are engaged in organizations or society participate proactively.

Prof. Xinping Guan (Nanka University, China) presented secondly a topic entitled “The Reform and Development of China’s Social Policy in the Current Socioeconomic Transition.” In his speech, he emphasized the main developments in social policy in the last decade, the current problems and challenges, the disputes among scholars and policy-makers about the main social policy choices. Also, he stated that based on the significant documents of the Party and central government in recent a couple of years, the possible social policy reforms and developments in the near future in China.

Lastly, Prof. Tae-Ung Baik (University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA) made his presentation with a title “Building an East Asian Community and Human Rights Cooperation.” He argued that Asia is the only area in the world that does not have a human rights court or commission covering the region as a whole. He stated that with a closer look at the recent development in the region, especially in East Asia, leads people to realize that a potential human rights system is indeed emerging. He explained that there have been various activities and initiatives for human rights evolving in Asia at the regional, sub-regional, and national levels. The human rights system in Asia is still a half-full glass. It has been filled with some positive elements, but is still half-empty with things to be developed further. He talked about the significant changes that have taken place in recent decades in Asia, and asserted that the region will eventually establish a regional human rights mechanism in Asia.

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 Jefferson Hall of East West Center at University of Hawaii at Manoa 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 a case study of the urban indigenous tribe as a learning site for developing cultural competence in China to welfare state development in East Asia: a cross-continental comparison. More than 40 papers were presented 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. Jing Guo (University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA) with two presentations.
Firstly, Prof. Yeon-Myung Kim (Chung-Ang University, S. Korea) discussed on Seoul Welfare Standards and the Future of Social Welfare in Korea. Main purpose of his presentation was to discuss the background of this policy adoption, its primary programs, and prospects for the future of the Seoul Welfare Standard. He also provided the significance of Seoul Welfare Standard in two ways. First, the Seoul Welfare Standard is an updated revision of the national minimum standards previously developed by modern welfare states of Western nations. Also, it accepts universal welfare ideology and emphasizes social welfare as a civil right. Thus, the Seoul Welfare Standard has great significance founded on the principles of universalism, welfare, and social rights that was formerly unfamiliar to Korean Society. Second, the Seoul Welfare Standard focuses on program investments for improving human capital, rather than investments for civil engineering and construction.

Second presentation was followed by Prof. Neil Gilbert (University of California at Berkeley, USA) who explained shifting balance of public and private responsibility in the mixed economy of welfare. He addressed several fundamental reasons for these changes and their substantive character, focusing on the increasing role of the private sector in the finance and delivery of welfare state activity. Three basic modes to increase private responsibility for heretofore publicly financed and publicly delivered social provisions are identified, illustrating alternative paths which advance the movement toward privatization. The assumptions and implications associated with these modes of privatization are analyzed. Likewise the first plenary session, many questions and answers were exchanged after the two presentations and the debate was also vibrant facilitated by Prof. Guo.

Following the 2nd plenary session, Prof. Ka-Ho Mok (EASP Former-President, Hong Kong Institute of Education) made closing remarks to thanks to attendees for participating in the conference. Also, Prf. Mok 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 University of Hawaii at Manoa and also Dr. Sophia Seung-yoon Lee (EASP Former-Secretary) for her work regarding the organization of the conference.

The venue for the conference in 2015 will be announced towards the end of the year.

Posted in Reports