Public Seminar: Economic Policy and the Welfare State in Japan and the UK


In this public seminar political scientists Prof Nobuhiro Hiwatari and Prof Junko Kato from the University of Tokyo join us to discuss their latest research into social policy reforms during financial crises, and tax politics and the welfare state.

Are Neo-Liberal Reforms Undemocratic? Evidence from the OECD and cases from the UK and Japan

Prof Nobuhiro Hiwatari, University of Tokyo

In this paper I provide a new way of addressing whether spending cuts and social policy reforms are undemocratic. Although measures that weaken market protection and social safety nets are opposed by organized interests and are unpopular with the voters, what if they reflect the position of the democratically elected legislature and not just the incumbent government? To show this is a possibility, I hypothesize that, when faced with global recessions, party leaders competing for power must show that they have viable plans to revive the economy, and as such, they have strong incentives to persuade the median voter that such reforms are unavoidable in order to stabilize the economy and assure international investors. Evidence from 20 OECD countries shows that the major left and right parties tend to move rightward during global recessions, but not so much leftward during economic recoveries with the rise of economic inequality. In addition, I show that spending cuts do represent the policy position of the legislative centre rather than the government centre. The validity of the argument is further demonstrated by examining the cases of Japan and the UK.

Date: 17 September 2014 from 6.30pm
Venue: The Japan Foundation, London

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