Accessed 8 September 2012
Flowering Asia welfare states draw upon lessons from the West
ASIA’S economies have long wowed the world with their dynamism. Thanks to years of spectacular growth, more people have been pulled from abject poverty in modern Asia than at any other time in history. But as they become more affluent, the region’s citizens want more from their governments. Across the continent pressure is growing for public pensions, national health insurance, unemployment benefits and other hallmarks of social protection. As a result, the world’s most vibrant economies are shifting gear, away from simply building wealth towards building a welfare state.
The speed and scale of this shift are mind-boggling (see article). Last October Indonesia’s government promised to provide all its citizens with health insurance by 2014. It is building the biggest “single-payer” national health scheme—where one government outfit collects the contributions and foots the bills—in the world. In just two years China has extended pension coverage to an additional 240m rural folk, far more than the total number of people covered by Social Security, America’s public-pension system. A few years ago about 80% of people in rural China had no health insurance. Now virtually everyone does. In India some 40m households benefit from a government scheme to provide up to 100 days’ work a year at the minimum wage, and the state has extended health insurance to some 110m poor people, more than double the number of uninsured in America…