The Influence of Civil Society on Welfare Expansion in East Asia: A Comparative Study of Singapore and South Korea
East Asian countries are often characterized as productivist welfare states whose social policies are subordinated to economic growth. However, in the past decade, public pressure for welfare expansion (or welfarism) has built up across all East Asian countries – including China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Therefore, this paper asks: How has pro-welfare civil society influenced welfare expansion in East Asia over the past decade? Addressing this research question will help fill the theoretical gap on the relationship between contemporary pro-welfare civil society activism and welfare state expansion in East Asian countries. I address this theoretical gap by devising the New Power Approach which argues that pro-welfare civil society is the main driver of welfare expansions when the incumbent government is conservative. By implication, the stronger the pro-welfare civil society in generating political impetus for reforms, the greater the extent of welfare expansion in the country with a conservative government.
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