Marginalization and Social Welfare in China

By Linda Wong | Go to book overview

9

The collective canopy

In market economies, a person's work is the main determinant of income and life chances. Remuneration is tied to the marketability of one's skills. The non-wage package among employees is also marked by inequality. It is in the statutory social services that treatment is supposedly equal, consistent and determined along need and citizenship criteria (Marshall 1950, Titmuss [1958] 1969). In the past, the potential role of employers as an instrument of social policy was neglected. Since the oil crisis in the mid-1970s, the bias of state welfarism has been recognized (Higgins 1986). The 1980s saw counter trends in the form of neo-conservatism and corporatism (Mishra 1990). Many realized that welfare provided in the work place, such as in Japan, was an integral part of the social wage and a genuine alternative to state services (Rose 1986, Esping-Andersen 1990). Nowadays, pluralist arrangements for welfare, contributed by providers such as the state, employers, local communities and kin, are accepted in advanced welfare states (Pinker 1991a).

Under socialism, work-based distribution rather than market allocation determines one's ultimate entitlement to welfare. In China, goods and services channelled through the unit of production-the collective-is of paramount importance. However, the role of human geography has been even more crucial. One's place of birth, in either village or city, critically affects one's life chances. In addition, one's attachment to different types of enterprise brings differential rewards. Horizontal inequalities in welfare notwithstanding, within the collective unit distribution has been highly egalitarian. The all-embracing nature of the collective canopy also made minimal state welfare tolerable. Communal amenities likewise play a key role in buttressing the resources of families in meeting individual needs.

In this chapter, the role of the collective in welfare will be analysed. It is argued that since welfare responsibilities are decentralized to the unit of production, a small state role in direct welfare matters becomes feasible. To begin with, I shall trace the etymology of the collective concept and clarify its meaning. Second, I shall examine its sociological significance. This is followed by a finer delineation of its welfare role. The conclusion is that as long as the collective framework remains intact. demands for state services are

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Marginalization and Social Welfare in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figure viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiv
  • 1 - Chinese Socialism and Social Welfare 1
  • 2 - The Culture of Welfare 24
  • 3 - Social Welfare in the First Three Decades 43
  • 4 - The New Welfare Challenge 62
  • 5 - Welfare for Veterans and Peasants 84
  • 6 - Urban Welfare and Mutual Aid 113
  • 7 - The Role of the State 137
  • 8 - Utilitarian Chinese Familism 158
  • 9 - The Collective Canopy 182
  • 10 - Conclusion 205
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 237
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