Developing the new framework of ‘life-mix’, which considers the mixed patterns of caring and working in different periods of life, this book systematically explores the interplay of productivism, women, care and work in East Asia and Europe.
The book ranges across four key aspects of welfare – childcare, parental leave, employment support and pensions – to illustrate how policies affect women in various periods of their lives. Policy case studies from France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, South Korea, Sweden and the UK, show how welfare could support people’s caring and working lives. This book forms a prescient examination of how productivist thinking underpins regimes and impacts women’s welfare, care and work in both the East and West.
This chapter aims to introduce the life-mix framework that provides a structure to guide the discussion throughout the book. This framework consists of five main elements, namely, life-mix preferences, policy strategies on productivism, welfare models on work and care, welfare outcomes and policy suggestions. The chapter is composed of five parts. After an overview of these five elements, it presents the objectives of the book, the study approach, the book’s contributions to current welfare debates and, lastly, the plan of the book. The chapter shows how the development of the life-mix framework is connected to existing welfare debates on women’s caring and working lives and studies on East Asian and non-East Asian welfare regimes. It also demonstrates how the life-mix framework can contribute to the critical examination of the uniqueness of the productivist nature of East Asian welfare regimes.
This chapter shows how insights from the current welfare debates provide the theoretical foundation for the development of the life-mix framework and the new dimensions this framework offers. It starts with Western ideas in contemporary welfare literature, including production activities, social exclusion, the capability approach, models of gender division of labour, de/commodification and de/familisation risks, and the productive dimensions of welfare policies. This is followed by a discussion of the commonwealth and the better-off society, which are commonly regarded as the traditional ideal societies in East Asian countries that share a cultural root in Confucianism. The last part shows how the discussion of these concepts shapes six welfare views which are essential to the study of issues concerning productivism and people’s diverse life-mix patterns and preferences.
This chapter is concerned with the uniqueness of East Asian welfare regimes. It starts with a discussion of the culturalist and the productivist perspectives which are widely applied to the study of these welfare regimes. By comparing Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea with 20 non-East Asian countries in terms of their relative labour participation rate, the gender wage gap and other indicators, it is found that the influence of the traditional male-breadwinner model that associated with the cultural perspective is not as strong as assumed. By reviewing data concerning the health care and education provisions in these four sites and the 20 countries outside East Asia, it is shown that the supported adult worker model associated with the productivist perspective is not as dominant as the current literature suggests. By considering the welfare issues commonly faced by both East Asian and non-East Asian countries and territories, this chapter concludes that East Asia should be treated as an important but not the only observation ground of government strategies on productivism.
This chapter presents childcare leave measures and ECEC as two policy case studies to show how government strategies on productivism affect people’s life-mix patterns. It shows how policy measures in these two domains can recognise, redistribute, reduce and reward paid work or informal care among men and women, and redistribute caring and financial responsibilities between the family and the state. By analysing the policy measures in these two domains in seven East Asian and European countries and territories, it is argued that generous and well-coordinated provision in these two policy domains can significantly increase the opportunity for parents of young children to organise their working and caring lives according to their life-mix preferences; whereas limited and weakly coordinated policy measures under these two domains may generate negative welfare outcomes, including life-mix material gaps (falls in the standard of living), life-mix relational constraints (taking up a role in care and work involuntarily) and user deficits (paying a high opportunity cost in using the services).
This chapter presents pension measures as a policy case study to show how government strategies on productivism affect people’s life-mix patterns. It shows how these measures can recognise, redistribute, reduce and reward paid work and informal care over people’s life courses, and redistribute work, care and financial responsibilities between the younger and older generations. By analysing the pension measures in the seven East Asian and European countries and territories, it is found that most important pension measures are earnings-related. To secure sufficient pension income for a reasonable standard of living after retirement, people are expected to spend most parts of their adult life in the work economy. Pension provisions for informal carers and early retirees are limited. Such policies undermine people’s opportunities to organise their working and caring lives according to their life-mix preferences. They can also generate a knock-on effect on the retirement life of informal carers, who may have faced a life-mix material gap (a fall in the standard of living) when they took up the role of informal carer at a younger age and missed out on the opportunity to contribute to a pension scheme. This leads to another material gap in the later parts of their lives.
This chapter uses ALMPs and alternative measures as a case study to show how government strategies on productivism affect people’s life-mix patterns. These measures recognise work as an important part of adult life. They aim to prevent people from losing their jobs, assist unemployed people to return to the labour market and maintain a reasonable standard of living when people cannot take part in formal employment within a period. By comparing these measures in the seven East Asian and European countries and territories, it is found that governments’ commitments to these measures vary to a great extent. Besides, most governments’ intentions to reward and reduce work through measures such as early retirement schemes and a decent minimum wage are not strong. The inadequacies in these measures may lead to life-mix material gaps (falls in the standard of living), life-mix relational constraints (leaving the role of worker involuntarily) and user deficits (people are required to attend mandatory jobseeker training and pay the opportunity cost of not being able to do other things that they value).
This chapter explores the significance of the key elements of the life-mix framework with the demand approach. It focuses on discussing how women manage their life-mix preferences, life-mix challenges and their expectations of the government in tackling these challenges. Examples are drawn from two studies of how women in Hong Kong handle life-mix issues. The first explores the experience of young women in accumulating pension income. The second is concerned with middle-aged women’s experiences of providing transnational family care. The findings show that women from different age groups with different levels of education attainment and occupational backgrounds can be equally vulnerable to life-mix challenges, they can simultaneously face more than one type of life-mix challenge and they can be vulnerable to the same kind of life-mix challenges in different periods of their lives.
This chapter is concerned with the search for ways of creating more favourable conditions for meeting people’s diverse life-mix preferences. It focuses on how to improve policies that affect people’s life-mix patterns. Six policy suggestions are made: exploring ways to break the link between the three life-mix challenges; fulfilling more than one near-future goal at the same time; critically examining government measures that undermine the development of the two supported adult models; suggesting ways for enhancing people’s chances of meeting their diverse life-mix preferences beyond the four policy domains discussed in this book (childcare leave, ECEC, pension and ALMPs); demonstrating how policy suggestions for the development of the supported adult models could contribute to international welfare agendas such as Europe 2020 and the UN 2030 Agenda; and encouraging governments to formulate policies on productivism beyond the confines of pro-market welfare reforms.
This chapter demonstrates how nine contemporary welfare ideas (namely, social investment, inclusive growth, defamilisation/familisation, the capability approach, flexicurity, active ageing, degenderisation, social exclusion and social quality) can be used to uphold the welfare principle of protected autonomy in life-mix. It also discusses ways to translate the potential of these welfare ideas into practical solutions. The short-term suggestion focuses on encouraging governments to interpret welfare ideas based on both pro-care and pro-work productivism. The long-term suggestion is about uniting welfare ideas that favour pro-work and/or pro-care productivism to consolidate the welfare principle of protected autonomy in life-mix.