Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Y. Rachel Zhou
Since the historic compromise between employers and workers in Germany in the late 1880s, whereby workers gave up their right to sue their employers in return for an administrative system that would compensate them for medical fees and income losses, Workers’ Compensation (WC) has been part of workers' protection against occupational hazards. Neo-liberal globalization, on both the domestic and global levels, with the accompanying the drives to increase productivity and reinforce international competitiveness are, however, undermining WC's effective functioning.
The worldwide vulnerability of WC is apparent, and South Korea and Canada are no exceptions. Despite the very different origins and developmental processes of WC in these two countries, in the context of neo-liberal globalization they seem similarly directed. The research aims to develop a comparative and contextualized analysis of the development of WC in these two countries, and to develop a critical analysis of the erosion of welfare through the recent changes in WC in them. Two research questions are thus explored: a) How has WC in South Korea and Canada developed since its adoption?; and b) How have the recent changes in WC in these two countries eroded the notions of the “welfare state” and “citizenship”, which are key to WC’s original purposes?
Using comparative policy analysis based on documents review, this research suggests that the advent of WC in Canada was a spontaneous response to social circumstances that demanded an institution to deal with the increase in occupational accidents that accompanied industrialization in the early 1900s. Conversely, WC in South Korea was established through the government imperative for economic growth and its other political purposes, which are typical features of the developmental welfare models.
The initial development of WC in Canada was thus radically different from its counterpart in South Korea; but recent reforms in the two countries demonstrate how neo-liberal ideology and managerialism have both led WC in the same direction. For instance, the employers' financial incentive of the experience rating system prevents the compensation of injured workers, and eventually renders WC ineffective as a social safety net. Early return-to-work programs are consistent with the “welfare-to-work” model for injured workers, and amount to a method of shifting costs from employers to public tax payers. The WC reforms in question, in both countries, reflect a very narrow and restricted conception – a neo-liberal conception – of citizenship.
These “anti-labour” elements of social insurance for injured workers are mainly products of neo-liberal globalization, which emphasizes efficiency and competitiveness above all else. In the context of neo-liberal managerialism, a number of workers in developed countries who are, mostly, non-regular and migrant workers are precluded from the protection of WC. While workers in the North are implicitly marginalized, their counterparts in the South are explicitly ignored by social security systems.
Han, Daehee, "A CRITICAL COMPARISON OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN SOUTH KOREA AND CANADA: DIFFERENT ROUTES TO THE SAME DESTINATION?" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7539.
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