Social Cohesion

Adressing Social Divide in Europe and Asia

There is a great opportunity for exchange on policies which have worked and lessons learnt. Numerous countries in Asia and Europe have introduced policy initiatives to address various aspects of social cohesion. Many of these initiatives tackle different sub-topics of this sometimes vague concept. While the policies themselves are often not transferable, they can still provide ideas and could be adapted to local circumstances.

In order to contribute to the understanding of the current developments on social cohesion, this publication includes papers with perspectives from Europe and Asia. What is the current situation in Europe and Asia? What aspects of social cohesion threaten peaceful living together? Can both regions cooperate in addressing this matter? Who are the key stakeholders and what initiatives are in place? These and other questions will be addressed in this publication.

The first paper by Maria Socorro Gochoco-Bautista, Dalisay S. Maligalig and Maria Nimfa F. Mendoza discusses the current situation with regard to polarization, inequality and social protection in Asia. The authors apply the method of Zhang and Kanbur to measure polarization. Based on this they provide an overview of the polarization in Asian societies on different levels. They conclude by analyzing the policy implications of this situation.

Yeo Lay Hwee and Nurhidayah take a closer look at the situation in Singapore, a country characterized by huge number of immigrants and income disparities. They show how the country has managed masterfully to achieve a high level of cohesion, but how current developments threaten this status, resulting in demands to address the issues at stake. After analyzing these emerging divides, the authors highlight the policy responses. Topics connected to social cohesion have been a pressing issue since the last elections in Malaysia.

Helen Ting Mu Hung discusses key features of these developments and addresses the recent developments with regard to social inclusion, social capital and social mobility. She shows what challenges the country faces and how they might be resolved.

Qian Jiwei highlights the importance of social policies and in particular public service provision in China. These services are believed to help level the divides in the Chinese society, but were long criticized for limiting the access to certain groups. Qian explains the reform of the system since the 2000s and what achievements have been made through the provision of such basic public services.

South Korea has seen fast economic development in the second half of the 20th century. This growth has been accompanied by various social, economic and political conflicts. Andrew Eungi Kim shows how these cleavages have become more intense in recent years and the effects of strong liberalization of the economy. This is analyzed by paying close attention to the policy responses from the government.

Claire Dhéret shifts the perspective from Asia to Europe and looks at how the economic crisis has affected social cohesion within the European Union. After providing an overview of the status of social cohesion in Europe, she analyzes some hidden facts of social cohesion and argues that policies to address the divides can be a way out of the crisis.

Since discussions on social cohesion are very prominent in times of economic and social transformation, Anton Hemerijck analyzes recent discussions in Europe. He highlights the developments of the European welfare states and reforms over time. The perspective is then shifted towards social investments and how these impact the cohesiveness of societies. Hemerijck shows the dilemma between fewer financial resources and the required social investments at the same time.

Paolo Graziano addresses the situation of social cohesion in Italy. He first looks at the economic performance of Italy since the introduction of the Euro and how this development has affected the employment situation. Arguing that mobility and capital need to be considered in the discussion, Graziano highlights the interdependence between the domestic conditions and the European environment.

While social cohesion is often understood in economic terms, Sebastian Braun shows how civic engagement impacts the different social relations in Germany. It helps to fulfil welfare tasks which the government cannot meet due to limited resources. At the same time, civic engagement builds up human as well as social capital. Braun argues that companies can also play a key role in this and help to achieve social cohesion.

The final paper by Neli Demireva analyzes social cohesion in Britain. Focusing on the ethnic relations between various groups and the impact of new arriving migrants, she discusses a development which impacts the cohesiveness in a number of nation-states. Demireva shows how both government initiatives and civic actions play a role in the management of cultural diversity and how stakeholders have to constantly adjust their positions.


Patrick Rüppel


Singapore, November 27, 2014