University of Bristol, UK
5-6 July 2018

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The 15th East Asian Social Policy Research Network (EASP) Annual International Conference was held at the University of Bristol on 5-6 July 2018. The theme of the conference was ‘Social Policy in Post-Growth East Asia’. Over 120 delegates from more than 12 countries/territories across different global regions (e.g. UK, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, Singapore, Ireland, USA, Germany, Australia and Denmark) participated the conference. Such international spread of participants generated a vibrant atmosphere and two plenary and five parallel sessions with 11 streams were filled with debates informed by a wide range of theoretical, practical and cross-national perspectives. Discussion highly focused on the changes and challenges facing East Asia for the last few decades. 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 a wide variety of backgrounds and national-base to exchange their knowledge and understanding.

The conference commenced with opening remarks made by Dr. Misa Izuhara (Chair of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network) who warmly welcomed the participants. Additionally, Prof. Paddy Ireland (Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, University of Bristol) also made a speech to celebrate the conference, highlighting the significance of understanding and studying social policy in contemporary East Asia and its relevance to the wider social science disciplines. The first plenary session (chaired by Misa Izuhara) included two presentations:

Professor Evelyne Huber (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA)’s talk was titled “Power, policy and income inequality in post-industrial democracies.” She summarized the insights from two articles focusing on inequality and redistribution and top 1% income shares, concluding the characteristics and the corresponding pattern of inequality and redistribution and top 1% income shares in post-industrial democracies. Besides, she respectively pointed out the main determinants of them (e.g. family structure, left government, welfare state generosity and unemployment; economic growth, increased knowledge-intensive production) though comprehensive analysis. Finally, she also extended to the discussion to the impacts of the inequality and redistribution and top 1% income shares.

Professor Jae-jin Yang (Yonsei University, South Korea) then presented a paper entitled “The small welfare state in South Korea: Origin and persistence in the post-growth social context?” In his speech, he pointed out that the origin and persistence of the “small” welfare state in South Korea despite successful industrialization, democratization, a militant labor movement, and a centralized meritocracy. He also highlighted the effect of different meso-level institutional arrangements in Korea from the most European welfare states. What’s more, he discussed some implications of the small welfare state in the post-growth social context, focusing on dualism in the labor market, declining social mobility, and rapid ageing.

During the two days conference, in total over 95 papers were presented. The conference as a whole featured 11 paper streams:

  • Welfare states and welfare regimes
  • Governance, democracy and participation
  • Migration, citizenship and diversity
  • Family and care
  • Health and well-being
  • Poverty and social exclusion
  • Education
  • Ageing and the life-course
  • Work, labour markets and security
  • Housing and urbanisation
  • Social protection

There were also five excellent panel sessions this year: ‘Minimum income standards for older people in East Asia and the UK’; ‘Social investment in the knowledge-based economy 1 and 2’; Population ageing and pension reforms in Europe and Asia: Politics, policy and outcome’; and ‘Multidimensional poverty studies in East Asia & Pacific Region: using consensual deprivation methods’.

Papers presented in these sessions covered a wide range of national case studies and many offering broader regional comparative analyses. A wide range of policy areas, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches was featured. A conference dinner followed the completion of sessions in the first day at the Orangery Goldney Hall with delegates invited to further exchange their ideas and build networks.

The second plenary session, chaired by Dr Jack Chan (Sun Yat-sen University, China), concluded the conference in the second day with two presentations:

First, Professor Ito Peng (University of Toronto, Canada) discussed on “Culture, Institution, and Diverse Approaches to Care and Care Work in East and Southeast Asia”. In her presentation, she explained the diverse approaches to care by comparing the two opposing approaches, focusing in particular on elderly care. After outlining the background of East Asia family policies, she compared and explained two broad approaches (regulated institutional and liberal private market) to care and care work in detail with the cases in East and Southeast Asia. Finally, she discussed the implications of two approaches for care and care work and discussed the issues included reciprocal relationships between care, employment and migrant policies and the convergence and divergence of pressures.

Second and final presentation was by Professor Ian Gough (London School of Economics & University of Bath, UK) who discussed “Climate Change and Social Policy in Post-Growth East Asia”. He mainly focused on the major arguments in his book Heat, Greed and Human Need: Climate change, capitalism and sustainable wellbeing. He proposed an alternative concept of wellbeing as the satisfaction of human needs and analyses its future in an economy beset with climate change and hyper-inequality. Then he argued the need to go beyond traditional social policy and proposes a suite of eco-social policies to combine the pursuit of wellbeing and inter-generational sustainability. In the end, he looked at the desirability and potential emergence of post-growth economies, including in East Asia.

In the closing ceremony, Dr Izuhara (the Chair of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network) and Dr Chan(the Secretary of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network) made closing remarks to thank the participants for their contributions at the conference. Special thanks were also expressed to the conference organizing team and student volunteers for their work regarding the organization of the conference. Finally, the in-coming Chair (Professor Shi-jiun Shih) and the Secretary (Dr Stefan Kühner) of the East Asian Social Policy Research Network were announced. Prof Shih addressed a short remark and expressed the willingness to host the next year’s conference.

The venue of the 2019 conference will be National Taiwan University and the exact dates will be announced shortly in the autumn 2018 on the website.

The 15th EASP Annual Conference Report: ‘Social Policy in Post-Growth East Asia’
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