The Chinese Social Benefit System in Transition

Reforms and Impacts on Income Inequality


Address for correspondence: Qin Gao, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023. Voice: +1-212-636-6638; fax: +1-212-636-7876.


Economic reforms since the late 1970s have made China one of the world's fastest growing economies but have also led to greater unmet social welfare needs and growing income inequality. This article describes social policy trends in urban and rural China and reviews recent empirical evidence on the transitions and impacts of its social benefit system. The evidence reveals that although urban social benefits experienced significant cutbacks, they are still much more generous than the minimal social benefits for rural residents and migrants. This extremely inequitable situation calls for a larger, progressive social benefit system in China.