Social Change and Policy Challenges in Developing Countries

By Skinner, Christine | Journal of Family Studies, December 2014 | Go to article overview

Social Change and Policy Challenges in Developing Countries


Skinner, Christine, Journal of Family Studies


ABSTRACT: Western capitalist economies have an established history of dealing with the pressures arising from social change, such as; increasing rates of divorce and separation; rising numbers of lone parent families and greater labour market participation rates among women. However, there remain many policy challenges resulting from both the consequence of family breakdown and the drive for greater gender equality. East Asian countries and developing regions may face comparable challenges as they are exposed to similar global pressures, though the antecedents of social change may be slightly different. In China for example, high fertility rates led to direct policy action with the introduction of the 'one child policy in an effort to control population size. In contrast, the fertility rate in Korea is one of the lowest in the world-following a rapid decline since the 1970s (OECD, 2014). The government is now trying to boost fertility through the provision of more childcare services to support women to both work and care. Such social changes and the policy responses to them could have profound effects on the nature of family relationships in these countries, but little research is currently available.

KEYWORDS: social change, divorce, child support, lone parents, childcare

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Western capitalist economies have an established history of dealing with the pressures arising from social change, such as increasing rates of divorce and separation; rising numbers of lone parent families and higher labour market participation rates among women. However, there remain many policy challenges resulting from both the consequence of family breakdown and the drive for greater gender equality. Many East Asian and developing countries may face comparable challenges as they are exposed to similar global pressures, though the antecedents of social change and policy responses may be slightly different. In China for example, high fertility rates led to direct policy action with the introduction of the 'one child policy' in an effort to control population size. In contrast, the fertility rate in Korea is one of the lowest in the world following a rapid decline since the 1970s (OECD, 2014). The policy challenge in both countries is to support women's employment alongside their caring roles. For mothers in particular, adequate childcare services are needed to ensure their continued participation in paid work. Such social change and policy responses could have profound effects on the nature of family relationships in these countries, but little research is currently available.

In order to consider how such social changes are being researched, early career researchers and PhD students were invited to present papers and posters at an international seminar entitled Social change in East Asian and developing countries: gender and family separation. The presentations covered many aspects of social change across numerous countries including in China, Korea, Taiwan, Columbia, Peru, Brazil and Nepal. (2) Although this seminar was designed specifically for early career researchers, it was the third in a series of six entitled Child maintenance: international perspectives & policy challenges. The whole series is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (3) with the Principle Investigator (the author) having won funding in a competitive tendering process. The ESRC is the premier funder of social science research in the UK and it recently doubled the size of the budget for its international seminar series, and now Pi's are expected to provide larger programmes of six seminars over 2 years. This is the first time the topic of child maintenance (child support) has attracted funding under this series and the six seminars will be delivered between July 2013 and June 2015. (4) The Nuffield Foundation are also supporting this series by hosting the sessions. (5) This themed section of the Journal of Family Studies provides a selection of research papers based on the seminar presentations. …

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