The Emergence and Development of Social Assistance in Beijing

Joe C. B. Leung, Yuebin Xu

Abstract

As an integral part of the social protection system, the social assistance program in China was fully implemented in all cities in 1999. In recent years, the government has made a further commitment to guide its development, extension, and institutionalization. Accordingly, it has grown dramatically in recent years both in terms of expenditure and number of recipients. It acts as a last resort ‘safety net’ for urban poverty-stricken residents and as a ‘shock absorber’ mitigating social tensions resulting from market-oriented reforms. This paper presents an analysis of the background and development of the social assistance program in Beijing, focusing on issues related to the design and implementation of the program. Relying as it does on a decentralized delivery structure at the neighborhood level, Beijing social assistance programs can have substantial variations in terms of practice and outcomes. This paper proposes that in the long term, China needs to design a more coherent and integrated social protection system.

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