This study adopted content analysis to examine policy papers concerning the eligibility requirements of the Minimum Living Standard Scheme (MLSS) in China's 31 capital cities. It was found that local officials not only assess applicants’ assets and incomes, but also their living space, quality of home decoration, possession of luxury goods, leisure activities, and behavior. The local governments’ use of a lifestyle assessment approach is caused by financial constraints and the lack of an effective mechanism to check applicants’ incomes. The lifestyle approach leads to regional inequalities in accessing public assistance, because some of the terms, which define the quality of life, are too ambiguous. The lifestyle approach, which requires applicants to live in very poor living conditions and also demonstrate their hardship to local officials, will be a barrier preventing poor people from being integrated into their communities. This study suggests that the key words and terms in the policy documents need to be clearly explained and similar criteria should also be adopted across different regions. It also proposes that the gap between MLSS eligibility criteria in the policy papers and their actual implementation requires further study in order to understand the impact of special local factors and the quality of life of poor people in China.
- Eligibility criteria
- fiscal disparities
- lifestyle assessment approach
- social exclusion