The 12th EASP Annual Conference Report: ‘Social Policy and Governance in East Asia’

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS),

Singapore, 30-31 July, 2015

The 12th EASP (East Asian Social Policy Network) International Annual Conference was held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS), on ‘Social Policy and Governance in East Asia’ from 30 to 31 of July, 2015. Over 150 delegates from more than 15 countries and regions participated from across Asia, Europe, Australasia, North America, and Africa (South Korea, Mainland China, Japan, USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, Mexico, Thailand, France, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Nigeria). The internationally spread participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and 8 parallel sessions were opened with 16 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. Kishore Mahbubani (Dean of LKY School of Public Policy, NUS) who warmly welcomed the participants and also highlighted that it was the first time to hold the EASP conference in Singapore. Also, Prof. Ngok Kinglun (President of EASP) delivered the second opening remark to celebrate the conference with clear indication of the importance of understanding social policy and governance in East Asia, one of the most dynamic and fast growing part of the world. Additionally, Prof. Ramesh M did the last opening remark to emphasize the importance of governance for social policy in Asia region.

The first plenary session was opened with a round table session, chaired by Dr. NG Kok Hoe (Assistant Professor, LKY School of Public Policy, NUS), set a broad ranging tone for the event.

Prof. Adam Graycar (Flinders University of South Australia, Australia) made a presentation titled “Governance of Social Services for the Aged.” He explained the policy issues in services for an aging community by saying that in giving people more years in which to live, science and technology have given them more years in which to die. He particularly emphasized that it is important to understand who makes claims, and on whom understand capacity and willingness to respond to these claims. Also, he mentioned that it is noteworthy to develop a service system and practice model to respond to claims that are deflected for older adults in aging society.

Prof. Yeun-Wen Ku (National Taiwan University, Taiwan) presented secondly a topic entitled “East Asian Welfare Regimes Revisited: What Changes in the 21st” In his speech, he emphasized that in the 20 countries, four major regime types remain stable over three decades, including the three welfare regimes by Esping-Andersen, plus the East Asian welfare regime especially referring to Korea and Taiwan. Also, he stated that most countries, 13 in 20, remain their regime types (including Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Japan, Korea, Taiwan) over three decades. Finally, he provided implications including a need for a more comprehensive framework for comparison as well as exploring further factors linking to regime shift.

Prof. Kyung-Zoon Hong (Sungkyunkwan Unviersity, South Korea) made his presentation with a title “Towards a better understanding of mixed welfare: Bringing publicness back in.” He argued that although state provisions dominate within the welfare state, there is a growing movement towards welfare pluralism – a mixed welfare system involving private, voluntary and informal sectors. Understanding this movement is a vital component in the analysis of modern social policy. He stated that service systems and service units have increasingly formed hybrids that combine various resources and a mix of governing principles that are typically associated with the market, the state, and civil society. He explained that it is necessary to reexamine the concept of publicness more deeply, to explicate a more comprehensive understanding of the mixed welfare system.

Lastly, Prof. Donald Low (LKY School of Public Policy) presented finally a topic entitled, “The Potential and Pitfalls of an Asset-Based Welfare System.” In this speech, he stated the pitfalls of a housing-centred welfare system including volatility of property prices; individualized risks, endowment effect and bequest motive, regressive and inequitable. Also, he mentioned a new approach to housing in Singapore by specifying stable property prices (not asset appreciation), sever the link between housing and retirement, redistribution via the conventional route of taxes and transfers, ensuring an affordable rental market.

During the two days conference, in total over 250 papers were presented including poster sessions. The conference as a whole featured sixteen paper streams:

  • Welfare Regime & Welfare Politics
  • Education
  • Family and Child Care Policy
  • Health Financing and Health Indicators
  • Migration and Diversity
  • Long Term Care, Health and Social Support for the Elderly
  • Mental Health & Disability
  • Housing-Home Ownership
  • Housing-Urban housing and Development
  • Urbanization and Changing Welfare Needs
  • Labor Market & Inequality
  • Environmental Policy
  • Pension Reform
  • Issues in Social Policy
  • Social Protection & Income Maintenance
  • Social Services

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 Village Hotel Bugis 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 long-term impacts of homeownership on life satisfaction in Korea to non-stigma social housing in transitional housing system in urban China. More than 120 presentations were done in the second day constituting around 250 paper presentations in total during the two days conference.

The second day sessions were followed by the second plenary session, chaired by Prof. Bum Jung Kim (Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Secretary of EASP) with two presentations.

Firstly, Prof. Mukul Asher (LKY School of Public Policy) discussed on “Economic Reasoning and Social Policy.” Main purpose of his presentation was to discuss how incorporating economic reasoning in social policy analysis and discussions could assist in improving design, implementation, and assessment of social programs and schemes. He also stated such incorporation could contribute to better societal outcomes and effectiveness of social policies. His presentation provides three inter-related frameworks, for thinking about household welfare, for generating fiscal space, and for diagnosing overall economic growth, or for sector specific constraints, which could be applied to specific contexts of social policy. Their application could assist in pursuing social policies in a more systemic and integrated manner, with requisite understanding of the trade‑offs involved in social policy choices.

Second presentation was followed by Prof. Matthew Gray (Australian National University) who explained “Data for Evidence Based Social Policy.” He addressed several fundamental reasons for why using data for evidence based social policy critical and how to create the data as well as providing implications of the study findings.

Following the 2nd plenary session and remaining panel sessions, Prof. Nok Kinglun (EASP President) made closing remarks to thanks to attendees for participating in the conference. Also, Prof. 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 team at LKY School of Public Policy, NUS and also Prof. M Ramesh (LKY School of Public Policy, on-site supervisor) and Mr. Mohammed Gaddafi Bin Mohd Hash (LKY School of Public Policy, on-site coordinator) for their work regarding the organization of the conference.

The venue for the conference in 2016 will be in South Korea at Ewha Womans’ University and will be announced officially at the end of this year.

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