Market and Welfare Reforms in Urban China

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Nov 16, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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Poverty Dynamics and the Linkages to Labour
Market and Welfare Reforms in Urban China


Dr Heather Zhang, University of Leeds, UK

Prof.
Laihua

Wang, Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences, China


Paper presented at UK Development Studies Association Annual
Conference, Institute of Education, London 3 November 2012




OUTLINE


Research problem and objectives


Methodology


Preliminary findings


Theoretical reflections


Research Problem and Research Objectives (1)


Increasing scholarly attention to the phenomenon of
‘new urban poverty’ in China in the past decade and
more
(cf., e.g. Guan, 1999; Lin, 2007;
Solinger
, 2002;
Tang, et al. 2003)


Research on the dynamics of poverty is limited


Fulong

Wu, et al. (2010,
Urban poverty in China
)
explore China’s
dynamic urban poverty landscape in
the context of city
sprawl,
urbanisation, land requisition
from
perspectives of property
rights and
entitlements


Simon

Appleton,
et al. (
2009,
Growing out of poverty: Trends
and patterns of urban poverty in China
1988
-
2002,
World
Development
) Employ quantitative research method to
estimate
the trends in
urban absolute poverty
using the Chinese
Household Income Project survey data 1988
-
2002.

Research Problem and Research Objectives (2)


The central concerns of the research


Individuals and families falling into poverty and the possibility of
escaping it over time


The possibility of poverty transmission across generations, or
intergenerational poverty and upward/downward social
mobility


Aims and objectives


To explore fresh theoretical and methodological approaches to
the study of poverty and inequality in urban China


To contribute to scholarship, and academic and policy debate in
the field

Methodology and Data

1



Applying qualitative longitudinal research methodology and a
dynamic approach to the study of poor families in two
communities in Tianjin


One author conducted extensive fieldwork between 2002
-
03, visiting,
observing and interviewing nine poor families who were on income
support, or the minimum livelihood guarantee (
dibao
) scheme


The other author carried out follow
-
up research six years later near the
end of 2008, successfully tracing seven of the nine families, and
intensively interviewed the same key informants and their family
members


Combining qualitative longitudinal research with other qualitative
methods of social inquiry, e.g. ethnographic fieldwork, observations,
unstructured interviews, focus group, site visits (to households and
local communities), etc.




Methodology and Data

2



Wider background of the research


The first
investigation
conducted in 2002/3

coincided with the
systematic rolling
-
out of the
dibao

scheme in Tianjin in the wake of
massive layoffs caused by enterprise restructuring and the sharp rise
in unemployment, poverty, and people’s increased sense of risk and
insecurity in this large industrial city


The follow
-
up investigation near the end of 2008 witnessed the most
intensive public policy interventions by the central and local state in
response to the serious challenge to Chinese economy and society
caused by the severe global financial crisis


Situating our micro
-
level research and individuals’
experiences in the broader context allows us


to avoid an individualistic explanation


to examine larger forces (e.g. globalisation, neo
-
liberalisation, social
policy interventions) at work in giving rise to the phenomenon and its
dynamics

Methodology and Data

3



Qualitative longitudinal research methodology


A temporal dimension


A dynamic approach


Generating close
-
ups of lives and experiences of individuals and
groups in real time


Analysing individuals’ experiences against a broader background of
historical and socio
-
economic change, and examining the impact of
larger social forces on individuals’ livelihood trajectories


Avoid an ‘individualised’ approach (e.g. the
suzhi
discourse), and take account of
both institutional mechanisms and individual agency


Generate rich, detailed, textured data and produce nuanced
understandings and deep insights


Has considerable explanatory power

Preliminary Findings

1



Data analysis thus far reveals


None of the seven poor families whom we managed to
trace in 2008

was on
dibao

any more



On surface, this was due to


Children finished high/technical school or university and found
jobs


One spouse found formal/informal employment


Retirement of one spouse, and thus family receiving pension
income


Death of the seriously
-
ill family member



Profiles of Informants on
dibao

Benefit (2002/03)

Name

Gender

Age

Education

Year of layoff

Family size

Qi

M

52

University diploma

1991

3

Han

F

48

Junior high school

2002

3

Wang


F

41

Senior high school

2000

3

Liu

M

48

Junior

high school

2000

3

Gu

F

47

University diploma

2000

2

Zhu

F

42

University diploma

1997

2

Feng

F

38

Senior high school

1999

3

Hua

F

41

Technical school

1999

3

Xiao

F

40

Junior

high school

1992

2

Wang, an unemployed worker with her husband (December 2008)

Preliminary Findings

2



However, it does not mean that all the families
escaped poverty


Those still struggling near the poverty line


Family member suffered from serious chronic health
problems


Female
-
headed/divorced single mother household


Most families, even though no longer on
dibao
, were still vulnerable to external
shocks and have relatively low resilience


Healthcare expenses 2004
-
7 for one seriously ill interviewee from a
poor family (December 2008)

Identifying mechanisms and contributing
factors (1)


Urban enterprise restructuring and employment
policies


The transformation of
danwei

and the reform of
the socialist welfare system


Increasing globalisation


Unemployment and the change in occupational
identity and social status


Pressure and stress caused by fierce competition
and widening inequality in a market economy


Broken social contract


Identifying mechanisms and contributing
factors (2)


Public policy interventions


policy matters


2002/3’s

investigation: systematic rolling
-
out of
dibao

and other
social assistance schemes, implementation of employment and re
-
employment policies in Tianjin


2008’s

follow
-
up research: a wide range of public policy
interventions implemented in between the years, which were
intensified in 2008 amid the global financial crisis (the Chinese
government’s four trillion RMB stimulus package announced on 9
November 2008 investing heavily in infrastructure and social
welfare), e.g. policies that give the
40
-
50

cohort re
-
employment
priorities (
40
-
50
优先就业
), the ‘government paying bill’ policy
(‘
政府买单
’), encouraging flexible employment (
灵活就业
),
emphasising full social insurance coverage (
社保全覆盖
), etc.


Academic debates surrounding
dibao

and urban
poverty in post
-
reform China



Dorathy
Solinger

(The
dibao

recipients: Modified anti
-
emblem of urban
modernisation;
China Perspectives
, 2008 No. 4: 36
-
47;
Solinger

&
Hu
,
Yiyang
, Welfare, Wealth and Poverty in Urban China: The
Dibao

and Its
Differential Disbursement,
The China Quarterly
, 2012, Vol. 211: 741
-
764)


Mun Young Cho (On the edge between ‘the people’ and ‘the population’:
Ethnographic research on the minimum livelihood guarantee,
The China
Quarterly
, 2010 Vol. 201: 20
-
37)


The existing English literature tends to apply a
structuralist

perspective


dibao

recipients portrayed as victims of market reforms vs. active agents of
change


dibao

tends to be discarded as


a control mechanism used by the state towards its citizens


an ineffective remedy prescribed by an ailing regime


a stigmatising label and a humiliating experience for its recipients


Some exceptions


Daniel Hammond (2011), Social Assistance in China 1993
-
2002: Institutions,
feedback and policy actors in the Chinese policy process,
Asian Politics and
Policy
3(1): 69
-
93

Aspects neglected in current research and debates


The dynamics of
dibao


An essential component of China’s developing and
evolving institutions of social security and welfare system


The comprehensiveness of
dibao


An important part of China’s comprehensive social
assistance system


The non
-
monetary aspects of
dibao


The perspectives and understandings of the
individuals and families on
dibao

benefit with
respect to its roles and significance


Theoretical relevance

Some theoretical reflections


We intend to explore


Theoretical explanations of poverty dynamics


in urban
China


unilateral breach of social contract through rewriting the existing
‘terms and conditions’ vs. the ‘unlucky generation’ explanations


Theories on social change, social stratification and mobility
(cf. Xiaogang Wu & Donald J. Treiman, 2007, Inequality and
equality under Chinese socialism: The hukou system and
intergenerational occupational mobility,

AJS
; Yanjie Bian,
2002, Chinese social stratification and social mobility,
Annu.
Rev. Sociol
., etc.)


Ralf Dahrendorf ‘s idea
of citizenship and life chances

(
1959



Class and class conflict in industrial
society;
1979



Life
Chances: Approaches to social and political theory
, 1988


The modern social contract: An essay on the politics of
liberty
, 2008


The modern social conflict
)