Demographic variation and welfare regime differences in East Asia

Dr. Marc Brazzill

This paper investigates the variety of welfare institutional arrangements and trajectories within East Asian countries. Although there is a significant body of research that identifies a unique East Asian welfare regime type – e.g. Confucian, Productivist, Familial – more recent approaches to the topic argue that there instead exists a diversity of welfare regimes within East Asia. One key to explaining this diversity is the variation in population ageing demographics found in the region. For example, Japan has the largest elderly dependency ratio in the world necessitating systems of social support for the elderly. On the other hand, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines have around 30% of their population under the age of 14 and thus face a markedly different set of social policy requirements.

There is significant evidence in developed welfare systems that the need to support a growing elderly population increases budgetary pressure on public social protection schemes and encourages welfare retrenchment. Faced with such pressures, many European countries have adopted social investment policies that target improved social outcomes for younger demographics in order to reduce the need for social protection in the future. Using cluster and principal component analysis techniques I aim to develop a typology of East Asian welfare regimes that examines the extent to which these differing demographic trends are reflected in a nation’s social policies, i.e. whether social investment or social protection policies are adopted in reflection of different demographic needs.