This paper examines how postindustrial pressures and political changes have shaped recent social policy reforms in Japan and South Korea. Postindustrial pressures are categorized into exogenous and endogenous factors: exogenous being economic globalization and internationalization, endogenous being changing family and gender relations and demographic shifts such as population ageing and declining fertility. The conventional approach to East Asian welfare states no longer adequately explains recent social welfare policy changes in the region, marked by trends towards welfare state expansion. I argue that the interactions between postindustrial and domestic political factors provide credible explanations for welfare state policy changes observed in these countries in the 1990s.
Ito Peng is Associate Professor of Political Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada. She teaches comparative social policy, comparative welfare states, and gender and welfare states. Her current research include: 1) comparative study of welfare state responses to postindustrial pressures in Japan, Korea, Italy, and Spain; 2) social policy reforms and gender in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan; and 3) civil society engagements in social policy reforms in Japan and Korea. Her most recent papers were published in the Journal of East Asian Studies, the American Asian Review, and in Social Politics.