Spotlight on graduate research: Elder care and the emerging East Asian welfare state

chieh hsu grs

At our recent Graduate Research Student conference, several of our DPhil students had the opportunity to present papers and take questions from faculty and fellow students. We caught up with one of the presenters, Chieh-hsiu Liu, to find out more about his work, and his experience at the conference.

Chieh-hsiu, can you tell us about your research?

My research is about why an emerging East Asian welfare state failed to defamilialise elder care in a general climate of welfare expansion. Over the past two decades, East Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have taken major elder care reform under strong functional and political pressures. Rapid demographic change, family restructuring and electoral competition have urged these familialist regimes to expand elder care systems. However, Taiwan appears most sticky to previous familialist care arrangements and demonstrates high extent of policy continuity in the elder care reform.

My thesis employs an explanatory case study to address the Taiwanese case. The existing literature usually explains East Asian “welfare laggards” by cultural-oriented or development state thesis, but they struggle to explain the expansion under new societal and political conditions after the 1990s. Instead, I take an ideational-institutional approach to address the policy continuity in Taiwan’s elder care reform. I argue, in the common language of care expansion, policy actors mobilise distinct sets of ideas for problem definition, solution proposal and construction for the need to reform. In a highly competitive political environment, emerging policy ideas formed new political coalitions and also created impassable institutional obstacles, leading to the limited policy changes in Taiwan’s elder care reform.

What stage are you at in your DPhil, and what are you working on next?

I’ve just come back from my fieldwork in Taiwan. Obtaining first-hand in-depth perspectives of policy actors, I conducted more than 30 interviews with state and civil society actors in Taiwan’s elder care reform, including government officials, legislators, NGO representatives and academics. I am currently analysing the interview data and enjoying the process of understanding how the policy actors think and interact with others and influence policy-making. I feel excited about the data analysis because this is bringing me fresher and deeper insights on the whole picture.

How did you find the experience of presenting at the GRS conference?

I appreciate this opportunity to present my work at the conference. This allows me to share my research with and receive comments from members in the department. Fellow students and young lecturers also shared their experiences on similar research dilemmas. I feel very helpful because feedbacks and advice from wider audience remind me of what I have not yet made clear and also shed light on my following way.