Edited by Nicholas Ellison and Tina Haux
As the most populous nation on Earth, China’s social policy affects the well-being of one fifth of the world’s population. This chapter traces the evolution of social policy in China in the past seven decades. It explains how social policy reforms were undertaken following structural changes in the economic system and the socio-political logic of the reforms. Contributory social security programmes in old-age pension, health care, unemployment, work injury, and public housing as well as means-tested social assistance programmes form the skeleton of China’s urban welfare system. The urban–rural dichotomy, as a rigid institutional legacy of the communist planned economy, still divides the rural system from the urban one. Notwithstanding the impressive achievements of social policy expansion since the early 2000s, China’s welfare system is still plagued by several major deficiencies, leading to continuous calls for reform. The most significant weakness is the vast systemic fragmentation and sub-national disparity. Reform efforts towards a robust equal welfare system are inevitably constrained by economic volatility and rapid demographic changes. How a middle-income communist country with wide regional disparity undertakes social policy reforms amidst a rapidly ageing population warrants close attention.
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