Diverse Histories, Different Outcomes: Social Policy and Development in Latin America and East Asia

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Diverse Histories, Different Outcomes: Social Policy and Development in Latin America and East Asia

During the 20 century, over two hundred million Latin Americans and South East Asians abandoned their secular, agrarian, traditions and migrated to a modern, urban, way of making a living; at the same time, countless millions housewives joined the workforce. A turbulent, painful, and frequently violent, process that is still ongoing in full transition in the regions as a whole. It has been the birth of a century. It was led by the State, through two succesive developmental strategies: Initially, the State had to build economic infrastructure by itself, meanwhile, social policy was used mainly as a means to transform backward peasantry into a fairly healthy, and educated, urban workforce. The second strategy took advantage of these achievements, to promote State-led market economies, meanwhile social policy shifted it focus mainly to address the problems of already large urban populations. Both regions are emerging out of this process as significant economic actors of the 21 century, and at the same time their overall indicators measured by UNDP social development index have improved quite dramatically. Yet, in spite of these regularities, wide differences are evidenced in their respective outcomes: Latin America started its transformation decades earlier, but East Asia has changed much faster; the former is the most socially unequal part of the world and relies heavily in the rent of natural resources exploited by a tiny part of the workforce, which relegated in large part to commerce and non productive services, remains in large part poorly educated and precariously unemployed or unemployed; meanwhile the latter is amongst the most egalitarian, and bases its economic might in the value added by its highly qualified, fairly decently and fully employed, mainly industrial, workforce. The paper tries to explain these different outcomes in the history of transition in both regions, analysed in the intersecting spaces of tectonic shifts in their social relations, historical starting points and paths, and institutional arrangements

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