International Conference on Economic Stress, Human Capital, and Families in Asia: Research and Policy Challenges.
3 - 4 June 2010, Singapore
This conference aims to provide a forum for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to share findings about the consequences of economic stress and policy implications for human capital development and family well-being in Asia. The scope of this conference goes beyond the impact of current financial crisis to include the effect of economic deprivation families experience as a result of marital dissolution, low-wage employment, or trying family events and circumstances (such as illness of family members or catastrophic natural calamities).
The changing demographic landscape, globalization, natural disasters, financial crises, and the revamping of social safety nets in many Asian countries in the past few decades have subjected countless people to economic stress. Job and income loss, volatile gasoline and food prices, and growing residential insecurity top the list of sources of family economic stress in recent years. Rising income inequality and decreased economic mobility in some areas are frequently reported in the mass media. Research has shown that economic stress is linked to poor human capital development, emotional distress, health problems, unstable marriages, curtailed family consumption, modified employment behavior of family members, changing union formation and fertility patterns, more frequent geographic movement, and harsher parenting behavior. Falling incomes and rising poverty may also erode a family’s social networks of support, leaving them isolated and unable to engage in social exchange. The ability of families and governments to adapt to changes in the economy has long lasting implications for the human capital development, the intergenerational mobility, and future economic growth of a society.
Previous research shows that changes in opportunity structure do not affect all households in the same manner. Family wealth, social capital, and support networks help buffer families from sudden economic shocks. Community resources, public assistance, and local labor market conditions also affect families’ ability to cope with adversity. Certain groups are at greater risk of economic hardship, such as unskilled workers, working poor, single-parent families or ethnic minorities. Families with multiple barriers are especially vulnerable to economic stress. However, recent research reveals that middle-class families or highly skilled workers are not immune to these economic uncertainties either. Research also shows that family members carry unequal burdens, with more adverse impact typically on women, children, and elderly.
Research from western countries where incomes are high and social safety nets are relatively more developed may not be applicable to Asia because of differences in culture, economy, demography, and social policies. We invite papers that address pertinent conceptual, methodological, and policy issues on economic stress and families in an Asian context. Perspectives from multiple disciplines such as sociology, economics, social work, demography, public health, psychology, anthropology, and public policy are encouraged.
Topics for papers in the conference include but are not limited to the following:
• The Extent of Economic Stress on Families – trends in the extent of job loss, financial loss, or material hardships such as food insecurity, housing inadequacies, or health care.
• Conceptual and Methodological issues – how do we measure economic stress, family resilience and adaptations adequately? What theoretical frameworks are useful for examining the impact of economic stress on family and human capital development?
• Policy Responses to Economic Stress - e.g. impact assessment of social protection policies in the areas of employment, education, childcare, housing, food, health care, or cash assistance. What are some of the effective policy measures that can help human capital development and strengthen families during economic hard times?
• Health, Health Care Cost, and Economic Stress – the impact on adult’s physical health and mental health of family members. Under economic stress, how are families rationing health care among members, and how does the middle generation negotiate the needs of younger and older members?
• Children, Youth and Economic Stress – how does economic stress affect childcare arrangements, children’s education performance and aspirations, psychological well-being, , physical health, behavior problems, or youth employment (including child labor)? How does economic stress affect parenting behavior? How do father’s job loss and coping behavior affect children’s occupational aspiration and outcomes?
• Elderly, Intergenerational Transfers, and Economic Stress – how does economic stress affect intergenerational transfers, including time and money allocated to care for the elderly? Are the elderly parents helping the younger generation? Have residential arrangements changed as a result of the economic setback? How have difficult economic circumstances affected one’s retirement plans?
• Economic Stress and the Decisions on Marriage and Parenthood – how does economic stress affect individual’s decision regarding union formation, dissolution, and whether to have a(nother) child?
• Wealth，Consumption，and Economic Stress – To what extent have prior savings and assets buffered economic stress? How has the economic downturn affected consumption behavior on food, education, health care, recreation, and other durables? To what extent have family savings and debts changed? How have economic downturns affected resource reprioritization for elderly and child dependents?
• Family Relations and Economic Stress – how has the economic stress affected marital relationships, parent-child interaction or relationship with kin? (e.g., parenting behavior, role of fathers, family time together, gender role dynamics, or domestic abuse)
• Intergenerational Transmission of Economic Disadvantages –To what extent do economic deprivation and exclusion affect children’s educational and occupational advancement? How do economic downturns affect intergenerational mobility? What are the risk factors for persistent poverty? What policy measures to consider?
• Social Capital, Support Network, and Other Coping Mechanisms – To what extent to social ties help families to cope? Are families using religion to keep the family unit together? Have family members changed their labor market or schooling behavior, doubled up housing quarters with other family units, or moved to a different location? What are the implications on resilience models?
• Vulnerable groups and Economic Stress – What are the particular challenges faced by groups such as single parents with young children, the working poor, dysfunctional families, or families with multiple disadvantages in the economic downturn? What are the potential strategies to help such families build resilience during periods of downturn?
Paper proposals should include a 250-word abstract and a short biography by 31 August 2009.
Please submit and address all applications to Miss Alyson Rozells (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Asia Research Institute, NUS. Successful applicants will be notified by 31 October 2009 and will be required to send in a completed paper by 30 April 2010.
Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Full funding will cover air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, and board and lodging for the duration of the conference.
Prof Jean Yeung
Asia Research Institute and Department of Sociology, NUS
A/P Angelique Chan
Department of Sociology and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School
Prof Gavin Jones
Asia Research Institute and Department of Sociology, NUS
Dr Yap Mui Teng
Institute of Policy Studies, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS
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