Abstracts & Papers in Stream 4

Last two decades many countries around the world have adopted 'inclusive' asset-building policies providing institutional opportunities of saving to not only the haves but also the have-nots. Advocates for inclusive asset-building policy claim that opportunities for saving and asset accumulation should be universal, progressive, life-long, and adequate. Using the life course approach, this study aims to discuss policy development and challenging issues of Singapore asset-building policy.

Singapore is characterized as a city-state where asset building institutions and policies have been developed systematically and comprehensively to advance social development and economic growth. There are three types of Child Development Accounts (CDAs) in Singapore. First, the Child Development Account covers children from birth to six years. The CDA was introduced in 2001 to encourage marriage and to tackle low birth rates. Savings in CDAs can be used for childcare, early child education, and health care. The second type of CDA is the EduSave Scheme (ES) since 1993. The ES targets school-going children aged 6 to 16 and supports enrichment programs (e.g., study trips, sports, etc). Third, in 2007 the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) was introduced to support investment in continued tertiary education. Balances in the CDA and ES can be rolled over to PSEA. In addition, unused PSEA balances are transferred into the child's CPF account. A key feature of the three CDAs is that they are interconnected with each other.

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) are two primary policy mechanisms that promote adult Singaporeans' asset accumulation over their life course. CPF is a compulsory and defined contribution savings for retirement income. More significantly, CPF savings can be withdrawn for down-payments and mortgage payments for the purchase HDB housing units.

This paper will conclude by discussing policy implications and challenges of the Singapore-style asset-building policy.


Han Chang-Keun, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Social Work
National University of Singapore
e-mail: swkhck@nus.edu.sg

Full paper: Han Chang-Keun_2010_Asset-Building Policy throughout the Life Course.pdf

Despite diversity in market and policy frameworks, late 20th century housing systems across industrialized economies in East Asia became increasingly focused on facilitating homeownership. Governments became characteristically interventionist in the housing sector, which was assumed to play broad economic, political and welfare roles. Despite the significant influence of the public sector, housing provision was largely commodified rather than de-commodified. Homeownership was perceived to enhance economic development, social solidarity and the asset base of family centered welfare provision. This view was bolstered by house price increases during an era of rapid economic growth. Expanding owner-occupied housing sectors ostensibly offset underdeveloped citizenship rights and public spending, and stimulated increases in middle-class home-owning households, who were provided an economic stake in 'developmentalist' government objectives. The Asian economic crisis of 1997/98 however, strongly impacted property markets across the region leading to increasing divergence in approaches to homeownership and welfare provision. This paper examines housing systems and policy regimes in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong to illustrate new strategies that have emerged in the 21st century that reflect diversifying orientations towards housing policies and property-based-welfare. These new strategies have been challenged by the recent global financial crisis, but housing markets appear to be responding very differently compared to the last major downturn

Our contemporary world is currently experiencing the global economic crisis and people from different socio-economic backgrounds suffer from various kinds of social and economic consequences. In coping with the 1997/98 Asian Financial Crisis, most governments in the region hurriedly expanded their social protection projects with substantial help from international organizations for helping those people suffering most from the catastrophe without having fundamental social policy paradigm shifts in East Asia. Despite the growing needs for social protection after the Asian financial crisis in 1997, most of the Asian governments have not drastically changed their approaches in handling the increasingly complex social welfare issues. Thus it is not surprising to see many people still suffered from economic hardship, especially in the midst of food price crisis before the current global economic crisis broke out in October 2008 (Mok et al., 2009). The principal goal of this paper is to critically examine whether the selected Asian countries have changed their philosophy of social welfare in helping those who suffer from poverty and other social consequences because of the rapid economic restructuring. More specifically, this paper sets out against the wider political economy context briefly outlined above to critically examine whether the approaches in social protection have changed in the four East Asian Tigers and China when addressing the social problems resulting from the present economic and financial difficulties.


Professor Ka Ho Mok
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Chang Jiang Chair Professor
Zhejiang University, China

Email: kahomok@ied.edu.hk