Social Policy in East and Southeast Asia: Education, Health, Housing and Income Maintenance

Social Policy in East and Southeast Asia: Education, Health, Housing and Income Maintenance

Social Policy in East and Southeast Asia: Education, Health, Housing and Income Maintenance

Social Policy in East and Southeast Asia: Education, Health, Housing and Income Maintenance

Synopsis

M. Ramesh is Senior Fellow in the Public Policy Program at the National University of Singapore and Associate Professor in Government at the University of Sydney.

Excerpt

The conventional wisdom in public-policy circles is that East Asia is a region of social-policy laggards. the generalization is not only false, it betrays the vast differences that characterize the region. the different patterns of recent policy changes in different countries has enhanced the differences and made generalization all the more difficult.

The overall level of social development in East Asia is no less remarkable than that of its economic development. But to draw usable policy lessons from East Asia's experience, it is essential to analyse its social policies carefully and compare them systematically. the objective of this book, then, is to analyse a range of vital social policies - income maintenance, health, housing, and education - in the four Asian Newly Industrialized Economies (NIEs) of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan and to identify the patterns of similarities and differences among them. the comparison will indicate the extent to which it is possible to generalize about the region and the lessons that can be learned from its social-policy experience.

The book plans to cast a deliberately wide net and study a broad range of vital social policies affecting social welfare rather than to focus just on social security and/or health, as is usually the case. Social welfare is affected, in addition to overall economic conditions, not just by social-protection programmes but also by education, health, and housing (Gough, 2000:4). Concentration on social security is particularly inadequate for understanding social welfare in developing countries because they tend to have a young population with a higher need for education and housing than for social security. Moreover, the distinction between social policies intended to promote social welfare directly (for example, social security and health) and those that promote it indirectly (such as education and housing) is non-substantial and is certainly not always obvious to policy-makers (Smeeding et al., 1993).

The NIEs offer a particularly fruitful opportunity for understanding the dynamics and implications of social policies. As some of the fastest-growing economies in the second half of the twentieth century and the start of the twenty-first, they are ideal candidates for shedding light on the

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