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ASIA POLICY BRIEF: What holds Asian societies together?

Economic development and prosperity strengthen social cohesion in Asia, poverty and discrimination against women weaken it. This is the conclusion of a study commissioned by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, which for the first time examined the cohesion of 22 societies in South, Southeast and East Asia (SSEA). According to the study, cohesion is strongest in Hong Kong and Singapore, followed by Thailand and Bhutan.

Asia’s economic and political rise is one of the most significant developments of the present age. This world region has become the driver of the global economy. At the same time, however, societal challenges are also increasing in the region. Almost all Asian societies find themselves in a state of upheaval, and are being drastically altered by profound transformation processes. As a result of these developments, there are tensions and conflicts in numerous Asian countries that threaten social cohesion and political stability. The question of how the cohesion of societies develops is therefore becoming increasingly important in Asia.

Against this backdrop, a new study presents, for the first time, comparative empirical data on social cohesion in 22 societies in SSEA for the period 2004 to 2015. To that end, a team of academic experts headed by Prof. Klaus Boehnke (Jacobs University Bremen) and Prof. Jan Delhey (Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg) developed a theoretically and empirically robust index that allows social cohesion to be measured in as many SSEA countries and territories as possible. The index shows the degree of cohesion in the respective societies, depicting its development over time and presenting each society’s cohesion-related strengths and weaknesses. It also analyzes the determinants and consequences of social cohesion.

In the current issue of the Asia Policy Brief, Peter Walkenhorst, Senior Project Manager in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Germany and Asia Program, presents the key findings of the study and explains their significance for understanding social cohesion in Asia and non-Western societies in general. He shows that there is there is no silver bullet that leads to consistently strong social cohesion in SSEA. Rather, different constellations and factors contribute to a more or less cohesive society. In principle, however, policy approaches promoting inclusive economic development, poverty alleviation and gender equality offer the greatest prospects of success. 

The current issue of the Asia Policy Brief can be downloaded here:

Publication: What holds Asian Societies together?

In the Asia Policy Briefs renowned experts and authors from the Bertelsmann Stiftung analyze important developments in Asia and their consequences for Germany and Europe. The short briefing papers focus on current events as well as underlying trends in important Asian countries.

All Asia Policy Brief editions can be downloaded here.

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