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Beyond the Limits of the Productivist Regime: Capturing Three Decades of East Asian Welfare Development with Fuzzy Sets

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2020

Nan Yang
Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, UK E-mail:
Stefan Kühner
Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Centre for Social Policy and Social Change, Lingnan University, Hong Kong E-mail:


Systematic accounts of East Asian government responses to the ‘limits of productivist regimes’ (Gough, 2004) remain surprisingly rare. This article develops three distinct types of East Asian welfare development, i.e. quantitative, type-specific, and radical, employing set-theoretic methods. It then uses these types to analyse six policy fields, including education, health care, family policy, old-age pensions, public housing, and passive labour market policy, in six East Asian societies: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. We find that all cases except Hong Kong and Singapore have experienced at least one radical shift in their welfare models over the past three decades (1990–2016). East Asian governments have increasingly combined quantitative expansion or retrenchment of ‘productive’ and ‘protective’ policy structures but have done so in unique ways. South Korea has followed the most ‘balanced’ approach to welfare development and stands out as the best candidate for further type-specific expansions moving forward.

Themed Section: Global Welfare Regimes Revisited
© Cambridge University Press 2020

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