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 20: Stemming the tide of demographic transformation through social inclusion: can universal pension rights help finance an ageing population?

Mark W. Frazier and Yimin Li


It is commonly said that China will ‘grow old before it grows rich.’ This has become a shorthand way of predicting that China, as a developing country, lacks the resources necessary to support an ageing population. But this truism overlooks an important development that might well alleviate the challenges of an ageing population: China is urbanizing rapidly as it grows old. This chapter examines the literature on China’s demographic change and the possible effects on China’s economic growth and social institutions, among other far-reaching consequences. China’s demographic transformation is inevitable, but the effects of this transformation are not. A shrinking labour force means an expanding elderly population will not, in and of itself, drag China’s economy into long-term stagnation. Instead, the effects of ageing will hinge on other factors, such as productivity growth and urbanization. The central argument of this chapter is that urbanization holds out the possibilities of reducing the status and income divides between urban and rural citizens. Bringing pension rights to rural residents, and at levels commensurate to those now enjoyed by the urban population, will create new streams of both fiscal and political support for the nascent pension and healthcare systems. Broad-based inclusion of the population in these programs would mitigate the fiscal challenges posed by population ageing.

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