The Challenges of Building the Social Sector in China

Date: 13 November 2012, 4pm

Location: 16 Kelburn Parade Room 101, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University

Speaker: Professor Andrew Watson, Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide

Seminar overview

Building the social sector to achieve greater social justice and equity and to respond to the social and economic challenges facing China is now an urgent priority for the government.

Until the 1980’s, China’s social services and welfare provision were shaped by the planned economy model. The employer was responsible for all aspects of the employee’s welfare, including housing, health and retirement incomes. In the cities, the work units looked after their employees, and in the countryside the people’s communes provided for their members. Once the market reforms were introduced, this system could no longer be sustained. Labour became mobile, enterprises became profit-oriented, the people’s communes disappeared and the sources of poverty and disadvantage changed. Rapid economic growth and structural change have transformed both the framework for providing services and the needs of citizens.

At present, China’s social security is characterised by different systems for different categories of people in different localities. Until recently, there were around 2,000 social insurance pools. The system is thus fragmented, and this presents large challenges for a mobile workforce. There is an urgent need to develop an integrated national system, but the obstacles are formidable.

This seminar examines the development of social security policies in China, with particular emphasis on the aging society and old-age retirement incomes. It discusses the barriers facing policy development created by the current structure of the social insurance system in China. It argues that China needs an integrated national system with an open and transparent policy-making process.

About the speaker

Andrew Watson is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide. From 1991 to 2001 Andrew Watson was Professor of Asian studies at the Centre for Asian Studies and a co-founder and co-director of the University's Chinese Economics Research Centre. He was the Ford Foundation Representative in Beijing from July 1999 until April 2008, where he managed a large program of grants on economic and social development. In 2008-10 he was Senior Adviser to the ‘Social Security for Migrant Workers Project’ for the China-Australia Governance Program funded by AusAID.

Professor Watson's teaching has encompassed China's economic and social history, Chinese politics, the Chinese economy and the Chinese language. His research focuses on economic and political development in contemporary China, and he is particularly interested in rural development and the processes of economic reform and growth since 1978. He is author of Living in China (Batsford: 1975), translator of Mao Zedong: Economic and Financial Problems (Cambridge University Press: 1980) and editor of Economic Reform and Social Change in China (Routledge: 1992). He has also written many articles and chapters in journals and books and jointly edited a number of other books about China. The latter include Rural Enterprises in China (with C Findlay and H X Wu, Macmillan: 1994), Food Security and Economic Reform: the Challenges Facing China’s Grain Marketing System (with Christopher Findlay, Macmillan: 1999), and Rural Financial Markets in China (with Christopher Findlay, Cheng Enjiang and Zhu Gang, Asia Pacific Press at ANU: 2003).