Rural Pension Politics in Taiwan: The Institutional Explanation and Implications for East Asian Agricultural Welfare Development

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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In East Asia, until recently, pension demands emerging from the rural sector have been neglected by many governments. In order to further the nascent scholarship in this field, this paper selects Taiwan’s case for analysis. More specifically, after conducting an historical institutional study of policy evolution over the last two decades it is found that in spite of depeasantization the interplay between rural income deficiencies, electoral interests and the feedback impacts of introduced programs has led to rural pension expansion. However, clientelistic pension politics is now being challenged by the government chiefly because it is uneconomical and has constituted the major obstruction to more programmatic reform acts being contemplated by state pension bureaucrats. Finally, regarding further policy debates on this sector-specific welfare provision Taiwan’s case raises a series of theoretical implications concerning East Asian agricultural welfare during the post-agricultural era.

Rural Pension Politics in Taiwan: The Institutional Explanation and Implications for East Asian Agricultural Welfare Development

in Asian Journal of Social Science



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In the early 1990sthis non-contributory scheme to the elderly without pension coverage was first proposed by rural-based opposition politicians and merely implemented in one off-shore agrarian county. Its further expansion mainly took place in the mid 1990s with ten independent schemes implemented by local governments six of which were of agrarian nature constituting 53% of the eligible recipient population (Fu 2000; Aspalter 2002). In relation to this paper only those schemes found in agrarian counties are defined as coming under rural pension schemes.


In 1995this non-contributory subsidy was introduced by the central government to cater for the pension needs of agricultural workers. Since its inception AFA recipients have been highly geographically concentrated in rural regions but the politically-induced administrative boundary changes of 2010 seemingly reduced this effect (i.e. there was a reduction in AFA recipients living outside metropolitan cities from 97% in 2010 to 66% in 2011) which has prompted some researchers to hold that many intermediate agrarian-based regions have been merged into metropolitan boundaries by the political elites for budget enhancement purposes rather than there having been a sudden drastic shift away from the local agrarian economy (Wang 2011).


  • View in gallery
    Employment change in Taiwan from 1952 to 2011 by sector
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    Income composition of older people households in metropolitan cities and agrarian countries in: 1986, 1996 and 2004 (%)
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    Relative poverty rates of households with old people according to geography in: 1986, 1996, 2000 and 2004 (%)
  • View in gallery
    Coverage and spending level of Aged Farmer Allowance (AFA) since 1995 to 2011

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