The East Asian Social Policy research network (EASP) held the third conference at the University of Bristol on 12th and 13th July 2006 sponsored by Japan Foundation, Routledge and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Stimulating keynote speeches, interesting paper-presentations in workshops and network-related activities filled the busy schedule. The Conference attracted about 120 delegates from near and farwith 40% from the UK and 60% from the East Asian region. The University of Bristol provided a very comfortable venue and the ‘Centre for East Asian Studies’, University of Bristol, ‘College of Humanities’, National Chi Nan University, Taiwanand EASP hosted the conference successfully.

The key theme of this conference was ‘GDPism and Risk: Challenge for Social development and Governance in East Asia’.  Six plenary speeches and 48 papers made a great contribution to constructive discussions during the conference as follows.

Professor Ka Ho Mok, Director of Centre for East Asian Studies, and Professor David Clarke, Pro-vice Chancellor, University of Bristol, opened the conference welcoming all delegates. Professor Ray Forrest, Associate Director of Centre for East Asian Studies then introduced the morning keynote speakers, Professor Jeffrey Henderson from Manchester Business School and the School of Environment and Development, and Professor Shaun Breslin from University of Warwick to give speeches respectively entitled ‘Towards a global-Asian Era: The difference that China and India make’‘Why growth equals power and why it shouldn’t: The case of China’s global economic role’.  The two hosting institutions, the Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Bristol, and College of Humanities, National Chi Nan University, Taiwan, subsequently signed an agreement for further co-operation, which is expected to provide another platform for intellectual exchange among academic institutions in the field of East Asian social policy.

Two parallel workshops followed, raising issues with regard to ‘Women and social change’ and ‘Challenges for governance and changing regulatory regimes’. After lunch break, two more keynote speeches were given with a focus on comparative perspectives.  Professor Paul Wilding from University of Manchester talked about ‘Is the East Asian welfare model still productive’, while Professor Ian Gough from University of Bath stressed on ‘European welfare states: Explanations and lessons for developing countries’.

Following Professor Gough, there were three sessions, ‘Women and social change’, ‘Dynamics of welfare regimes in East Asia’, and ‘Challenges for governance and changing regulatory regimes’, conducted by nine presenters. After tea break, other parallel workshop streams on ‘Challenges for governance and changing regulatory regimes’ and ‘Education policy and governance’ were carried out.

Conference dinner was held in the first day evening, giving delegates an opportunity to share their experience of the day’s sessions and to solidify the EASP network.

Professor Mari Osawa, from University of Tokyo and Professor Byung-Hyun Park, from Pusan National University made the second day addresses. The addresses discussed ‘The livelihood security system and social exclusion: the reverse functioning of Japan’s male bread-winner model’ and ‘Public private partnership in East Asia’. 

The morning workshops followed the speeches. More papers, inclusive of 12 pieces of work, were presented in three parallel sessions: ‘Dynamics of welfare regimes in East Asia’, ‘Education policy and governance’, and ‘Lives of the elderly and social policy’. An equal volume of presentations were taken place in the afternoon sessions that was divided into three different streams: ‘Poverty, unemployment and social policy’, ‘Social development issues in the information age’, and ‘Health policy and politics’. 

Professor Ka Ho Mok concluded the conference by appreciating all the participants for their contributions.

During this conference, new EASP leadership has been structured. Prof. Shogo Takegawa (University of Tokyo) as a chair, Prof. Yun-Wen Ku (National Chi Nan UniversityProfessor Ka Ho Mok (University of Bristol) and Professor Jin-Young Moon (Sogang University) as vice-chairs have joined into the EASP committee. publication plan for EASP official journal was also progressed

From the conference, it was learnt that East Asian societies have been rapidly transforming in terms of socio-demographic-economic aspects and also political aspect. Accordingly, the importance of roles of social policy has been dramatically increasing, as recent remarkable developments of social policy in this region witness this fact. It was argued that changes of family, women’s roles in particular, and labour market structure provide significant implications for transforming East Asian welfare regimes. While participants generally agreed with the necessity of the expansion of social policy in the region, there were theoretical and practical debates on; how homogeneous East Asian welfare regimes were (arguing that should pay more attention to increasing heterogeneity between East Asian countries); which theoretical perspective could best explain the development of East Asian social policy – Confucianism, political-institutional approaches, or else (e.g. World Society theory, business influences); the sustainability of East Asian economy and East Asian welfare regimes; the way to increase the fertility rate and also women’s autonomy in these rapid ageing societies; roles of education as social policy. The conference produced a number of quality papers and concomitantly a number of questions that researchers should explore from now on.

Shu-yun Wu (University of Bath) and EASP committee 

The 3rd EASP (East Asian Social Policy Research Network) Conference