Table of Contents

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Elgar original reference

Edited by Misa Izuhara

Dramatic socio-economic transformations over the last two decades have brought social policy and social welfare issues to prominence in many East Asian societies. Since the 1990s and in response to national as well as global pressure, there have been substantial developments and reforms in social policy in the region but the development paths have been uneven. Until recently, comparative analysis of East Asian social policy tends to have focused on the established welfare state of Japan and the emerging welfare regimes of four ‘Tiger Economies’. Much of the recent debate indeed preceded China’s re-emergence onto the world economy. In this context, this Handbook brings China more fully into the contemporary social policy debates in East Asia. Organised around five themes from welfare state developments, to theories and methodologies, to current social policy issues, the Handbook presents original research from leading specialists in the fields, and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy.

Chapter 5: Shaping social policy in the reform era in China

Kinglun Ngok

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, development studies, asian development, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


China’s social policy has been undergoing significant changes since the introduction of market-oriented economic reform and the transition from a planned economy in the late 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, as economic growth became the paramount policy goal of the government, the state-monopolized socialist welfare system of the Mao period was dismantled in order to boost economic growth. As a result, the old social policy regime based on collectivism and social equity gave way to a ‘productive’ social policy regime, in which social policy was used as a tool to facilitate the state sector reform and promote economic growth. Under the new social policy regime, the state streamlined the public sector, retrenched public expenditure, reduced its role in welfare provision and encouraged the marketization of social services (Guan, 2000; Wong and Flynn, 2001; Wong, 2004). Although China achieved remarkable economic growth in the 1980sand 1990s, the marketization of social policy led to a significant imbalance between economic growth and social development. The retreat of government funding from the fields such as education, health and housing represents a major challenge to the realization of basic needs for the poorest households. Low-income citizens, mainly unemployed urban people, rural–urban migrant workers, and peasants, could not afford education, health care and housing. Patients without money were rejected by the hospitals; and students with economic hardship were not allowed into schools and universities.

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