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 13: Gender, welfare and the economy of care in reform era China: how the welfare system shapes women’s opportunities and gender equality

Sarah Cook and Xiao-yuan Dong


This chapter examines welfare changes in reform era China through the lens of care – that is, the daily and generational work of reproduction essential for the functioning of society and the economy. During the Mao era, care roles and responsibilities were largely socialized, enabling women to enter the labour force in vast numbers while also contributing to rapid improvements in a range of welfare indicators. The reform era has seen the work of care largely returned to the domestic sphere, with households providing care with unpaid (predominantly female) labour, or accessing care services through the market. These changes have significant implications for women’s choices around work, family and fertility, as well as for the welfare of care recipients. Market reforms and the commodification of care services affect the provision and quality of care services, the nature of care work and the status of its providers. The chapter sheds light on the gendered nature of welfare systems, and the wide-ranging implications of how care is delivered and financed: on the welfare and opportunities of women as carers; and on the wellbeing of those in need of care, as well as on broader economic, social and demographic outcomes.

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