Transferring from the poor to the rich: Examining regressive redistribution in Chinese social insurance programmes

Junqiang Liu, Kau Liu, Yunong Huang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Social insurance promotes progressive redistribution through risk pooling and cross-subsidy. However, in China, risks and protection are mismatched, with benefits and protection accruing to the privileged while high-risk groups are inadequately protected. This article reports on a study of the sources of regressive redistribution in Chinese pension, health and unemployment insurance programmes, and discusses the possible cause of this redistribution paradox. It argues that the government has adopted different strategies for welfare reform towards different socioeconomic groups. For the core groups, such as public employees, reform has been characterised by replacing old programmes with new (i.e., a replacement strategy). For marginal groups, the government has handed off its responsibilities to individuals and the market (a retrenchment strategy). This political pecking order of welfare reform is the cause of distorted distributional outcomes. As social policy programmes continue to spread in developing countries, China's case illustrates that they may reinforce existing disparities rather than realise progressive redistribution, risk management and social inclusion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)199-210
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


    • China
    • Political pecking order
    • Regressive redistribution
    • Social insurance
    • Welfare reform


    Dive into the research topics of 'Transferring from the poor to the rich: Examining regressive redistribution in Chinese social insurance programmes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this