Chinese workfarism: logics and realities of the work–welfare governance model

Sun, X. (2014). Chinese workfarism: logics and realities of the work–welfare governance model. Asian Social Work and Policy Review, 8: 43–58. DOI: 10.1111/aswp.12024 [Retreived 31 March 2014]

Given the fundamental disparities between China and the west in political structures, social values, policy regimes, and problem loads, it is meaningful to use “workfare” as a challenging analytical standpoint and detect that China had created unique workfare regimes to build up the past state-socialism and the present market-socialism. In the era of state-socialism, the dual-track welfare system, apparently adopting an institutional approach to the city and a residual approach to the countryside, was purposely integrated with the segregated urban-rural work system, constituting a China-specific workfare regime in which the whole workforce was included and effectively organized into the socio-economic order. Under market-socialism that appears as an awkward hybrid, the work-welfare governance model is being gradually transformed into a pragmatic, much marketized one, though without idealogical legitimacy as well as a clear-cut vision. On the one hand, employment differentiation and income disparity resulted from a strategic shift from the “reform-without-losers” stage to the “reform-with-losers” stage in the labor market, together with a large scale rural-to-urban labor migration, are structuring a market-oriented, stratified employment system. On the other hand, while being a welfare laggard, China’s productivist, status-segregated welfare system is taking shape owing to a set of welfare reforms along the line of marketization and societalization. All these changes would imply that China is converging towards a neo-liberal regime in which the role of the state is residual to the market.


Cite this blog post
Monique Abud (2014, April 16). Chinese workfarism: logics and realities of the work–welfare governance model. URBACHINA. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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