Project B05 (2022-25)

Inclusion and Benefit Dynamics in the Chinese Welfare Regime

Since the 1990s, there has been a significant expansion of social insurance coverage in the People's Republic of China. At the same time, there are persisting gaps between de jure and de facto coverage, enormous regional disparities, and extensive reliance on informal social protection. A segmentation of programmes emerged between the relatively generous social insurance for urban formal employees, and rudimentary citizens' insurance for the rural population and migrant workers, among others.

In the first phase, the project focused on the introduction of social insurance programmes. In the second phase, we analyse how these programmes and related social policies have evolved from the 1990s to 2020 in terms of coverage and generosity of benefits.

Specifically, with this project we want to contribute to the understanding of social policy dynamics in the risk fields of old age, sickness, maternity, and unemployment. We ask about a possible convergence of the scope of benefits between employee and citizen insurance, to what extent informal practices and political repression influence inclusion dynamics and to what extent global economic interdependence and ideational linkages in the East Asian region influence changes in coverage and generosity. To answer these questions, we first collect data on coverage and generosity for the four social policy areas. Particular attention is paid here to gender differences. Subsequently, the data will be analysed and interpreted with regard to national and international influences.

Data preparation and analysis follow a mixed-methods approach. First, we separately collect and analyse quantitative data (from yearbooks and surveys) and qualitative data (from administrative documents, field research, interviews with experts and publications by Chinese academics). In addition to qualitative content analyses, we will also use econometric approaches and quantitative textual analysis. Subsequently, we triangulate and validate the results of the different methods and content-related sub-areas.

Overall, our findings aim at a better understanding of a case of social policy expansion under autocratic conditions that is particularly interesting for international comparison.