Academic journal article Development and Society

Introduction

Academic journal article Development and Society

Introduction

Article excerpt

Sequential Social Changes?

Since the Second World War, Japan, South Korea, and China have experienced an interesting combination of sequential social changes. It was Japan that first boosted fast economic growth. The country's real growth rate was already close to ten percent annum in the second half of the 1950s and remained double digit throughout the 1960s. Then came South Korea with its GDP growth above or around 10 percent for most of the 1970s and 1980s. China's growth also jumped up in the 1980s but was strongest during the 1990s. Japan's recession started in 1991 with the burst of its asset price bubble, continuing into the lost twenty years and perhaps more. South Korea also began to recede after 1997 when the Asian Financial Crisis hit the country hard. China is beginning to show some signs of economic slowdown since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. In other words, these countries have come though the phases of industrialization and deindustrialization in a sequential manner. Of course we do not believe in unilinear evolutionary stages of social change among these countries. However, there is no denying that Japan, South Korea, and China have experienced a sequential social change in this respect.

It is not only economic boom and burst these countries have experienced sequentially. Urbanization is another such area. Population living in urban areas already reached 80 percent for Japan in 1980. The same for South Korea happened in 2000. China is predicted to reach the same degree of urbanization at around 2050. Japan's share of elderly population aged 65 and above is now over 25 percent and was already 12.1 percent back in 1990. South Korea, with its fastest speed of ageing in the world, could beat Japan's 1990 level of ageingwith 12.7 percent only in 2014. China is also catching up fast with 10.6 percent in 2014. The industrial sectors in Japan and Korea now account for only a quarter of the total employment (25.8% for Japan and 24.4% for Korea in 2013), while they once explained about 35 percent in the mid-1990s. It is now service sectors that explain 70 percent of employment in both countries. As of 2013, Chinese industrial sectors were responsible for 30.1 percent of total employment which might look not very different from roughly 25 percent for Japan and Korea. However, unlike the other two countries, the share of employment by industrial sectors in China has been on the constant increase from 18.2 percent in 1980 to 30.1 percent in 2013. What is happening in China in terms of employment composition is similar to what we witnessed in Japan and Korea until the 1980s: the simultaneous growth of employment in both industry and services.

Why have the three countries experienced sequential social changes in certain areas? Lying behind these common but lagged experiences are macro trends such as industrialization, de-industrialization, population ageing, and globalization. In this sense we are riding in different compartments of the same train. However, these macro trends may be experienced differently in the daily lives of citizens in three countries. Although the three countries may look in different stages of historical time (Gerschenkron 1962), they are living in a contemporaneous world in physical time. Becoming a middle class member is largely determined by industrialization and urbanization in China. Remaining in the shrinking middle class has now become a matter of surviving de-industrialization and globalization in Japan and Korea. A Gallup survey conducted in 1989 reported that as high as 75 percent of Koreans believed that they belonged to the middle class. A similar survey conducted by the Korean Sociological Association in 2013 shows that only 20.2 percent of Koreans believe that they belong to the middle class (Yee 2014). Japan once boasted a "general middle-class society" where all 100 million Japanese were thought to belong to the middle class (Chiavacci 2008). Now Japan is diagnosed a divided society where success is determined by which hospital a person is born in (Sato 2000). …

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