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A Comparative Study of Social Policy in Asian Countries Focusing on the System of Social Protection Policies
Attach A Comparative Study of Social Policy in Asian Countries  Focusing on the System of Social Protection Policies(KOR).pdfA Comparative Study of Social Policy in Asian Countries Focusing on the System of Social Protection Policies(KOR).pdf Author No Daemyung Date 2017/04/05

In the 1990's, the studies on welfare state in East Asia have been greatly influenced by the experience of western welfare states, accepting Esping-Andersen’s arguments about three worlds of welfare regimes. However recent studies have begun to be led by the asian researchers who recognize the comparative study on social protection in asian countries as important academic and policy issues. It is considered that they have begun the critical reflections from the inside on the welfare state in this region. In this study, the authors intend to show various models and paths of Asian welfare states as they are, without developing the discourse as like East Asian welfare regime. Six authors, from Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, explain the main issues and reform trends in social protection policies in each countries.

In Japan, the Abe's government, given the rapid growth of age-related spending, has implemented substantial structural reforms of the social security system. Some of the examples include : 1) increasing medical co-payments for individuals over 74 years to 20 per cent, 2) raising the retirement and eligibility ages for receiving public pension payments from 65 to 67 years or higher, and 3) reducing the ratio of the pension to average annual earnings to below 50 percent. It is interesting to see that the japanese government tried also to expand social insurance coverage to non-regular workers for the purpose of reducing the labour market duality and boosting youth employment.

In China, the social protection system will play an increasingly important role in economic growth, the balance of income distribution, poverty alleviation and maintenance of social cohesion. Although China has made great achievements in poverty alleviation, but has made little progress in terms of narrowing the income gap. Whether it is in urban areas or in rural areas, the income gap is far greater than that at the initial stage of reform. Current social protection system needs further reform, not only to achieve full coverage of main social insurance and social assistance programs, but also to reduce inequality between different groups and different regions in the same security system, to further increase the redistributive effect of the social security system.

In Taiwan, it was witnessed a remarkable development of statutory welfare systems in the decade of 1990s, including the realization of the National Health Insurance, unemployment insurance, allowances for elderly people, special protections for children and women against violence. And a lot of policy debates on National Pension Insurance was finally enacted in 2007 and implemented one year later. Faced with the challenges of population ageing and job precarity, now the policy debates pay much attention on the establishment of long-term care system and the reforms for a sustainable pension system.

In Thailand, the social protection system consist of two elements : One is the Social Security Scheme(SSS) in which has been implemented by the Social Insurance Act of 1954 and revised several times to 2015. SSS include seven social protection programs : Health insurance, Birth delivery, Death benefit, Disability benefit, Pension, Children assistance benefit, and Unemployment benefit. The problem is that SSS cover only slightly over one third of the labor force. And the other is a tax-based program as like Universal Social Pension, Universal Health Care, Universal Disability Aids, Patient Assistance Grant, etc. The fact that SSS covers only just above one third of workforce indicates the need to expand social protection for working Thai. Another gap in the social projection system is the welfare for young children before school age. Long-term care is also another area that has some gap in term of coverage. The financial sustainability of social protection system will be another problem to solve.

In Vietnam, current social protection system is facing the challenges as follow : The first is ensuring fiscal sustainability of the social pension scheme. The second challenge is accurately identifying beneficiaries for the efficiency of social assistance programs. For this, life-cycle approach will be appropriate in identifying various risks at different stages of life, so that policies and programs will be adaptive to such risks. The third is increasing coverage. Expanding coverage of the social  pension scheme to include poor older persons living in rural and coastal areas. The fourth is improving the benefit delivery system. And the final challenge is enhancing the scheme’s monitoring and evaluation system

Finally, the social protection system in Korea has been expanded and strengthened in the aftermath of the 1997 financial crisis, with the introduction and reinforcement of four social insurances systems. However the current system has still many problems : 1) poors and irregular workers excluded from welfare programs, 2) low benefit level of public pension and social assistance, 3) fragmented welfare delivery systems between the central and local governments, and inside the central government. Also given the population ageing and low fertility and the low economic growth since the late 1990s, the government is concerned about the future of social protection system. Korea is now at a crossroads, seeking alternative social protection models beyond the limits of existing social insurance system.



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