Social welfare in China

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Social welfare in China has undergone various changes throughout history. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is responsible for the social welfare system.

In pre-1980s reform China, the socialist state fulfilled the needs of society from cradle to grave. Child care, education, job placement, housing, subsistence, health care, and elder care were largely the responsibility of the work unit as administered through state-owned enterprises and agricultural communes and collectives. As those systems disappeared or were reformed, the "iron rice bowl" approach to welfare changed. Article 14 of the constitution stipulates that the state "builds and improves a welfare system that corresponds with the level of economic development."

In 2004 China experienced the greatest decrease in its poorest population since 1999. People with a per capita income of less than 668 renminbi (RMB; US$80.71) decreased 2.9 million or 10 percent; those with a per capita income of no more than 924 RMB (US$111.64) decreased by 6.4 million or 11.4 percent, according to statistics from the State Council’s Poverty Reduction Office.

Welfare reforms since the late 1990s have included unemployment insurance, medical insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, maternity benefits, communal pension funds, individual pension accounts, universal health care,1 and a carbon tax.2

A law approved February 2013 will mandate a nationwide minimum wage at 40% average urban salaries to be phased in fully by 2015.3

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