Jeanne Shea, Katrina Moore and Hong Zhang (eds) (2020)
Beyond Filial Piety: Rethinking Aging and Caregiving in Contemporary East Asian Societies
Hardback: ISBN 978-1-78920-788-0, £110.00
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-80073-447-0, £31.95
eBook: eISBN 978-1-78920-789-7
Contemporary East Asian societies are undergoing profound and rapid demographic and social changes. A major concern associated with such transformations is decline in the traditional practice of the Confucian ideal of filial piety – the moral obligation and duty of adult children to respect, obey and, importantly, provide support and care to ageing parents. This, in turn, raises questions about the continued centrality and primacy of family as the site for eldercare. Given the aforementioned shifts, how individuals, families, communities and nations are (re)thinking, navigating and organising the provision of eldercare, and, in the process, reinterpreting and giving new meaning to filial piety, is the subject matter of this book. Giving voice to ‘what ordinary people in East Asian contexts are saying and doing with respect to ageing and caregiving’ (p 23), Beyond Filial Piety offers a sweeping, extended and detailed update to Ikel’s (2004) Filial Piety on ageing and caregiving in contemporary East Asian societies, namely, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
Although filial piety remains a widely shared cornerstone and reference point for East Asian societies, Beyond Filial Piety, in examining current patterns of familial and non-familial care, surfaces the plurality of meanings and practices associated with filial piety and caregiving. Using ethnographic and mixed-methods approaches, the book does a remarkable job of placing the lived experience (for example, of older adults, children, grandchildren, community volunteers and health and care practitioners) within broader conditions and contexts by bringing together ‘the macro demographics with the micro of qualitative research’ (p 10). In so doing, the book introduces readers to the complexity and manifold conceptions of filial piety operating at multiple scales across East Asian societies, including divergent policy and individual responses, thereby making a distinctive contribution to the literature on ageing and caregiving in East Asia in terms of focus, coverage, content and approach.
Beyond Filial Piety is organised in three parts, covering the Chinese, Japanese and Korean contexts. Each chapter starts with a contextual overview highlighting the diversity of demographic ageing, socio-economic inequalities and conditions, development trajectories, and welfare policies being pursued in each context. The first section of the book comprises six chapters devoted to China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. These engage variously with ideas and practices of filial piety by considering changing patterns of caregiving within the context of: national rural–urban migration (China) and the international migration of children (Taiwan); the increasing value attached to spousal care (China); Hong Kong’s long-term care policy favouring institutional care; and perceptions of filial piety among young Singaporeans (grandchildren). The next three chapters on Japan consider: the challenges and potentials of ageing and caregiving in a super-ageing society; living and dying alone; and the experiences and careers of family caregivers that encompass illness, end-of-life care and post-death care. The final three chapters situated in the South Korean context discuss: shifting ideas about filial piety, caregiving practices and eldercare support policies; the specifics of giving and receiving care among Sakhalin Korean older adults; and end-of-life care provision.
Together, these chapters draw attention to both continuities with and departures from traditional understandings and expectations of filial piety – markers of what counts as ‘filial’ are changing, suggesting a loosening of generational and gendered hierarchies of care and support. Practices of giving and receiving care acknowledge and incorporate spousal care as an expression of independence. Moreover, practices more often involve exchanges of care, rather than a one-way flow of material and non-material support and resources from children to parents. Here, global ideas of ‘productive ageing’, coupled with historical values of ‘self-reliance’ (as in Japan), also inform the evolving values and expectations of older adults vis-a-vis filial piety. Contributors trace the divergent policy responses to ageing and caregiving with regard to social support, health and long-term care across East Asian societies, noting that some governments have more established support systems than others. Even so, commentators agree that policy remains biased towards eldercare by adult children, with government support limited to those without adult children or where adult children are unable to provide care. Findings suggest that care practices, expectations and obligations are being reinterpreted by both the young and the old, albeit circumscribed by socio-economic differences.
Beyond Filial Piety, as contributors reflect, does not engage with minority ethnic groups’ experiences of ageing and caregiving in these locales. It is, however, a well-researched and insightful volume, offering cross-cultural comparisons. This book will appeal to scholars across many disciplines, from gerontology and anthropology, to public policy and health and social care, and particularly to those interested in Asian contexts.