Globalization, economic institutions, and power relations: inclusive growth in East Asia

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed study will examine the divergent levels of “inclusive growth” in the East Asian newly industrialized economies (NIEs) between 1990 and 2020. The NIEs include Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Inclusive growth will be measured by the types of employment opportunities and their implications for poverty alleviation, socioeconomic inequality, productive employment, and empowerment.

This study will examine three sets of explanatory variables: (1) globalization, financialization, and technological innovation; (2) economic institutions; and (3) power relations between the state, business, and labor.

First, this study will investigate the ways in which globalization, financialization, and technological innovation have generated varying degrees of restructuring and deindustrialization in the NIEs. Being at the receiving end of globalization and experiencing compressed development, the NIEs’ experiences are expected to differ from those of advanced capitalist economies (ACEs). The proposed study aims to uncover the uniqueness of the NIEs in this process. Second, this study will examine economic institutions by taking the varieties of capitalism (VoC) approach, formulated initially by Hall and

Soskice (2001) and enriched by later studies, as the point of departure. It will examine the levels of “employer coordination” (i.e., business enterprises’ negotiation with their workers and other enterprises to coordinate economic pursuits) in the NIEs and analyze how levels of employer coordination have shaped these economies’ responses to globalization, in particular their divergent strategies of restructuring and production network extension.

Third, this study will also critically apply the VoC literature that emphasizes power relations (e.g., Thelen 2014; Iversen and Soskice 2019) to analyze organized workers’ relationships to the state and business actors, examining ways in which the said relationships have mediated the NIEs’ responses to globalization-induced changes in economic and employment situations.

The proposed study’s systematic comparison of the changing levels of inclusive growth among the four NIEs will fill an important empirical gap. It will also contribute theoretically to a literature developed from studies of ACEs by capitalizing on the NIEs’ compressed development and their status as hybrid regimes or new democracies. Chart 1 presents the working explanatory framework.

This study will use the historical-comparative method and undertake document research. It will also feature qualitative interviews with participants based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei to triangulate the historical-comparative findings and understand the experiences of workers in three sectors: finance, services, and the platform economy. The findings are expected to generate several peer-reviewed journal articles.
Effective start/end date1/01/23 → …


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