Social welfare in China

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Social welfare in China has undergone various changes throughout history. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is responsible for the social welfare system.

Welfare in China is linked to the hukou system. Those holding non-agricultural hukou status have access to a number of programs provided by the government, such as healthcare, employment, retirement pensions, housing, and education. Meanwhile, rural residents are generally expected to provide for themselves.[1]

In pre-1980s reform, China, the socialist state fulfilled the needs of society from cradle to grave. Child care, education, job placement, housing, subsistence, health care, and elder care were largely the responsibility of the work unit as administered through state-owned enterprises and agricultural communes and collectives. As those systems disappeared or were reformed, the "iron rice bowl" approach to welfare changed. Article 14 of the constitution stipulates that the state "builds and improves a welfare system that corresponds with the level of economic development." The government has expressed desire to encourage NGO participation in tandem with local state efforts to improve social assistance to low-income households.[2] Such measures have been a central part of the Chinese state's decentralization efforts and its retreat from delivery of welfare and social provisions.[3] In this regard, the Shanghai government has "increasingly encouraged the contracting of social services to NGOs,"[4] while local governments are also entrusted with a wide range of decision-making and responsibilities on the delivery of social welfare needs.[5]

Just as these NGOs have had variances in their relations with local governments in China from region to region, their impact on the community has varied as well. This is largely due to the fact that "different cities in China have different resource environments available to NGOs."[6] Three different types of resource environments are seen in four cities where NGOs operate- Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and Nanjing.[7] The differing resource strategies with which organizations react to these environments mean that some organizations favour passivity in Chinese citizens while others encourage them to be active and offer models for them "to engage with social issues."[8]

In 2004 China experienced the greatest decrease in its poorest population since 1999. People with a per capita income of less than 668 renminbi (RMB; US$80.71) decreased 2.9 million or 10 percent; those with a per capita income of no more than 924 RMB (US$111.64) decreased by 6.4 million or 11.4 percent, according to statistics from the State Council’s Poverty Reduction Office.

Welfare reforms since the late 1990s have included unemployment insurance, medical insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, maternity benefits, communal pension funds, individual pension accounts, universal health care,[9] and a carbon tax.[10] Social welfare schemes introduced by the Hu Jintao regime (2003-2013) and the Xi Jinping regime (2013-present) encompass several urban programmes and aim to "revolutionize the urban safety net and social insurance contract in China."[11] This policy change has been widely viewed as a type of authoritarian responsiveness, which "hypothesizes that the regime's basic overarching goal for these programmes is to elicit support for the regime from programme participants."[12]

A law approved February 2013 will mandate a nationwide minimum wage at 40% average urban salaries to be phased in fully by 2015.[13]

China introduced the one-child policy decades ago, and this has helped reduce the strain on the government resources and economy. At present, the rules are modified and people can have more than one child, provided they pay a fee. This fee goes into funding necessary infrastructure or anything else the government deems fit.

Furthermore, for many of the minority groups, there are some benefits available. In the early 1950s, when the definition and identification of ethnic minorities was established, China implemented social welfare policies and programs to assist ethnic minorities, designed to improve their capacity for human capital accumulation.[14] These have bolstered minorities' participation in higher education and "other important sectors of the Chinese state and society."[15] The minimum livelihood guarantee program (known as the dibao) has generally favoured minorities, although other new social welfare programs often favour majority Han residents.[16] The one-child policy in China also does not apply to these minority groups. According to Reza Hasmath and Andrew MacDonald, social welfare programmes' differential treatment of Han and minority residents "highlight the importance of local government officials' incentive structure when implementing the new social welfare programmes."[17] A new wave of social welfare programmes being implemented in China "aimed primarily at urban residents"- a process which will provide a new opportunity to analyze the effects of social welfare policy on minority groups.[18]

The minimum livelihood guarantee (the dibao) was piloted in Shanghai in 1993, and implemented nationwide in 1999. As Hasmath and MacDonald note, the number of dibao recipients had reached nearly twenty million by 2012. The basic concept of the programme is that each urban household is entitled to a minimum guaranteed subsistence income, regardless of the occupation held previously. Theoretically, each local authority sets its minimum income qualification threshold considering local conditions, while in reality it is more often the availability of government resources rather than local conditions that determine how the dibao is dispensed.[19] For such reasons, barriers to the practical implementation of the dibao programme exist. Among these hindrances is a significant degree of mistargeting- households that theoretically should be ineligible for receiving subsidies (ie. households that are not experiencing economic hardship) are receiving aid, while households that are eligible are not included in the programme.

According to Hasmath and MacDonald, these implementation errors partly result from the discretionary nature of the dibao application process- receiving subsidies is often contingent on knowledge of the programme and consulting with its providers, who in turn must also be willing and proactive in seeking out impoverished prospective applicants and assisting them in the application process.[20] Such behaviour on the state's part has led to speculation that the dibao and "other forms of discretionary government attention" have been employed to mitigate dissent and any public threat to the local government which could lead to unrest.[21] These threats may include negative performance evaluations of local officials or state agents implementing the dibao programme, lowering their chances of promotion and possibly leading to reprimands. There is a high level of government discretion in implementing the dibao, and as such, as Hasmath and MacDonald argue, "the programme may be especially susceptible to this pressure."[22]

Another more widely discussed social welfare scheme, launched in 2009, is a comprehensive medical insurance programme. The social safety-net scheme is an initiative to provide free or low-cost insurance to both urban and rural residents. In urban areas, the plan is to greatly boost enrolment in the Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance Scheme (URBMI). The purpose is to cover those who are not employed or not covered by the basic Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI). Premiums are partly paid by the government, and the premiums are waived for the poorest residents. Hasmath and MacDonald note that unlike the dibao, the program is to be universally implemented rather than conditional on need assessed at the government's discretion.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Young, J. (2013). Ch. 2. In China's Hukou System: Markets, Migrants and Institutional Change (pp. 27-64). New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.
  2. ^ Hasmath, Reza; Hsu, Jennifer Y. J., eds. (2015). NGO Governance and Management in China. Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 9781317437147.
  3. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hasmath, Reza (2014). "The Local Corporatist State and NGO Relations in China". Journal of Contemporary China. 23 (87): 516.
  4. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hasmath, Reza (2014). "The Local Corporatist State and NGO Relations in China". Journal of Contemporary China. 23 (87): 517.
  5. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hasmath, Reza (2014). "The Local Corporatist State and NGO Relations in China". Journal of Contemporary China. 23 (87): 520.
  6. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hsu, Carolyn L; Hasmath, Reza (2017). "NGO Strategies in an Authoritarian Context, and their Implications for Citizenship: The Case of the People's Republic of China". Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 28 (3): 1157.
  7. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hsu, Carolyn L; Hasmath, Reza (2017). "NGO Strategies in an Authoritarian Context, and their Implications for Citizenship: The Case of the People's Republic of China". Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 28 (3): 1157.
  8. ^ Hsu, Jennifer YJ; Hsu, Carolyn L; Hasmath, Reza (2017). "NGO Strategies in an Authoritarian Context, and their Implications for Citizenship: The Case of the People's Republic of China". Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 28 (3): 1157.
  9. ^ "The long march to universal coverage: lessons from China" World Bank, January 2013
  10. ^ "China to introduce carbon tax: official" Xinhua, February 19, 2013
  11. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 301.
  12. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 301.
  13. ^ "China promises rise in minimum wage to close income gap" BBC, 6 February 2013
  14. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 295.
  15. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 295.
  16. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 296.
  17. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 296.
  18. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 295.
  19. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 302.
  20. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 303.
  21. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 303.
  22. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 303.
  23. ^ Hasmath, Reza; MacDonald, Andrew (2018). "Beyond Special Privileges: The Discretionary Treatment of Ethnic Minorities in China's Welfare System". Journal of Social Policy. 47 (2): 303.
Further reading

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