Handbook of Welfare in China
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Handbook of Welfare in China

Edited by Beatriz Carrillo, Johanna Hood and Paul Kadetz

The Handbook is a timely compilation dedicated to exploring a rare diversity of perspectives and content on the development, successes, reforms and challenges within China’s contemporary welfare system. It showcases an extensive introduction and 20 original chapters by leading and emerging area specialists who explore a century of welfare provision from the Nationalist era, up to and concentrating on economic reform and marketisation (1978 to the present). Organised around five key concerns (social security and welfare; emerging issues and actors; gaps; future challenges) chapters draw on original case-based research from diverse disciplines and perspectives, engage existing literature and further key debates.
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Chapter 7: The urban minimum livelihood guarantee: social assistance (just) to stave off starvation

Dorothy J. Solinger


This chapter presents an outline of the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee program (dibao), a social assistance scheme first introduced in Shanghai in 1993 and expanded to all Chinese cities by 1999. The chapter argues that the scheme has been tightly linked to the pacification of laid-off workers (primarily those from the State-owned sector). It was designed also to serve as a new form of basic sustenance for the poor following the collapse of the welfare safety net provided by the traditional urban work unit under the socialist planned economy. The chapter argues accordingly that as public demonstrations by the jobless fizzled out after the mid-2000s, the initial relative generosity of the early phase of the scheme saw declining benefits over time. The chapter uses statistical comparisons to document the increasing miserliness of the scheme: i.e., it compares dibao outlays with average disposable income of urban residents nationwide and with average wages in various cities; and it considers drops in governmental dibao investment as a percentage of gross domestic product and of government expenditure over the years. Finally, the chapter draws on interviews with recipients to convey the pitiable living conditions under which these allowances force them to survive.

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