An evolving welfare system in a developing country


Professor CHAN Chak-kwan, Dickson


The Lingnan-based Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS) was established in 1998 to promote the well-being of the elderly, both through academic and policy research of the highest quality, as well as via collaborations with health and social services practitioners and organisations. APIAS has a special focus on ageing issues in Greater China, and conducts international comparative studies with European, American and African countries.


Professor Dickson Chan was appointed Director of APIAS in 2018.  Having begun his working life as a social worker in Hong Kong, Professor Chan pursued his MA and PhD studies in the UK. Subsequently, he moved between Hong Kong and Britain, conducting research in areas such as Hong Kong’s social security policies, China’s welfare development, and the needs of, and the support available to, informal carers in Nottingham in the UK.


Moving into the 21st century, Beijing launched a dramatic reform of its state-owned enterprises in order to reduce the financial burden and promote economic competition. This new strategy led to redundancies. hitting less well-educated and older workers particularly hard. Since the late 1990s, the Chinese government has attempted to shift its role from a direct welfare provider to a welfare monitor, by introducing a policy of contracting out social services to NGOs, upending the traditional welfare model in which all public services were delivered by government agencies.


Between January 2017 and June 2019, Professor Chan, together with Lingnan Vice-President Professor Joshua Mok, and Professor Ngok King Lun of Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-Sen University, examined the reasoning driving this hugely significant development, and the outcomes to date. The project, titled ‘A Study of Contracting Out Social Services and Changing Welfare Governance in China’, was funded to the tune of HKD776,200 by the Research Grants Council.


Despite Hong Kong’s health and welfare systems being relatively advanced compared to those on the Mainland, several books published by Professor Chan  have highlighted the lack of a universal pension scheme, and the absence of a comprehensive system of support for those caring for the elderly, as notable weaknesses in the SAR.


Recently, Professor Chan and his colleagues at APIAS have obtained several grants for their work with non-governmental organisations and academics from other universities, to investigate ‘ageing in place’ policies and the support provided to carers, in Hong Kong and other cities in the Greater Bay Area. In particular, APIAS and Wuyi University are studying the ageing in place model in Jiangmen City. In the later stage of this joint project, researchers from both universities will compare ageing in place practices in the cities of the Greater Bay Area.


To know more about Professor Dickson Chan's research projects, please click Lingnan Scholars.