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The article engages with the literature on the ‘East Asian welfare model’ by using Esping-Andersen's ‘worlds of welfare capitalism’ approach to analyze social policy in the region. It describes the main features of a productivist world of welfare capitalism that stands alongside Esping-Andersen's conservative, liberal and social democratic worlds. It then shows that Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are all part of this world, though they divide into sub-groups within it. To account for productivist welfare capitalism in East Asia, the article focuses particularly on bureaucratic politics at the unit level, and on a range of key shaping factors at the system level. It closes by considering the implications of East Asian experience for comparative social policy analysis.