Exploring social and generational equity in the context of China’s socio-economic and demographic transition

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Book chapter

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Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

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Edward Elgar


The Chinese economy was dominated by state-owned enterprises before market liberalization in the late 1970s. In addition to government-guaranteed lifetime employment, people enjoyed ‘low benchmarks, broad coverage’ of public provision of welfare in cities. China’s economic reforms emphasizing economic growth, efficiency and competitiveness dismantled the ‘iron rice bowl’ policy (Ngok, 2009). The ‘societalization of welfare’ policy reform aimed to transfer social services and welfare to government agencies, communities and/or market providers (Guan, 2000). The policy shift promoted private saving rather than state saving provision, in which more emphasis was put on the role of social insurance (Dignam and Galanis, 2009). Nonetheless, dramatic economic restructuring and social transformation (particularly an evolution of the hukou system) have significantly challenged a movement to a welfare pluralist approach in China over the past three decades. New social risks have engendered a growing demand for public services, while there are only limited resources meeting the growing needs. It is widely recognized that global processes of economic change have significantly shaped national economic and social policies. Economic competitiveness gives national government impetus to adopt a welfare pluralist approach and thus further exacerbates unequal access to public services. These policy reforms may further widen the gaps between the haves and the have-nots and contribute to social division.



Funding Information

Project funded by the Hong Kong Institute of Education, entitled ‘How Local Governance Implements Policy Reform in Relation to Migrants’ Rights to Welfare: A Case Study of Medical and Pension Insurance for Migrants in Hangzhou, China’ (Project RG38/2009-2010R).{Project RG38/2009-2010R}

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Copyright © Misa Izuhara 2013 All rights reserved.

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Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780857930286

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Recommended Citation

Lau, M. (2013). Exploring social and generational equity in the context of China’s socio-economic and demographic transition. In M. Izuhara (Ed.), Handbook on East Asian Social Policy (pp.150-169). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. doi: 10.4337/9780857930293.00014