Extension of social insurance coverage to informal economy workers in China : An administrative and institutional perspective

Jiwei QIAN*, Zhuoyi WEN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

This article reviews administrative issues in the context of decentralized social protection in China. In particular, what are the main obstacles to expanding social insurance coverage for workers in the informal economy? Over the last two decades, China has achieved remarkable progress toward universal social protection when this target was set as a national policy priority. However, the social insurance enrolment of informal economy workers still lags significantly behind. This article reviews the application of the International Labour Organization’s definition of informality in the Chinese context and overviews existing pension and health insurances in China. This article discusses the impact of China’s inter‐governmental fiscal relations and decentralized social protection in the multilevel government system. The article highlights that under a system of decentralized managed social insurance many informal economy workers choose to opt out of the system because of low benefits and high compliance costs. This result in deficits in social insurance coverage amongst informal economy workers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-102
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Social Security Review
Volume74
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

The authors made equal contributions to this article and take full responsibility for its content. A version of this article was first published in November 2020 as an ILO Research Brief entitled “Institutional constraints for the extension of social insurance coverage to informal economy workers in China”. The authors acknowledge valuable feedback provided for the original research brief from Claire Courteille‐Mulder, Director of the ILO Beijing; Shahrashoub Razavi, Director, Social Protection Department, ILO Geneva; Florence Bonnet, Work Quality Department, ILO Geneva; Nuno Cunha, ILO Bangkok; and Luis Frota, ILO Beijing. We also thank the Social Insurance Administration Centre, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, for their pertinent opinions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Social Security Association

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Social Security Association

Copyright:
Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • China
  • coverage
  • informal employment
  • informal workers
  • social insurance

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