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Impact of Changes in Social Institutions on Income Inequality in China

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  • Hiroko Uchimura

Abstract

This paper analyses the impact of changes in social institutions, i.e. in the informal and formal social security system, on income inequality in China. This study uses an inequality decomposition analysis approach comparing household survey data for 1988 with 1995. Since 1992 was a decisive year for accelerating to increase the role of market mechanism in China, comparing these two periods shows significant changes in social institutions and their impacts on income inequality. It provides meaningful implications for inequality issues in the present China. In a first step the paper looks at the impact of changes in the family based social security system on income inequality. Secondly, the paper investigates the contribution of current social security system reforms as a potential tool to cope with increasing inequality. Three main results emerge from the analysis: first, the family based social security is losing its importance mainly through the changes in employment pattern in a household. This change has a significant impact on income inequality. Second, this study shows that the introduction of new formal social security system helped to equalise the distribution of retired household members’ income in urban areas. Third, however, these changes have only benefited a restricted number of persons. Benefits for rural migrants are low and most of the rural population has still no access to the new system. Important steps forward will be to raise the fund-pooling level, and to include nonfarming workers into the new system. Ce document analyse l’impact des changements survenus dans les institutions sociales chinoises — à savoir le système de sécurité sociale formelle et informelle — sur l’inégalité des revenus. L’auteur procède à une décomposition des inégalités en comparant des données d’enquêtes auprès des ménages réalisées en 1988 et en 1995. L’année 1992 ayant marqué un tournant décisif en Chine, avec le rôle accru des mécanismes de marché, la comparaison de ces deux périodes fait apparaître des évolutions sensibles au sein des institutions sociales et met en évidence leurs conséquences en matière d’inégalité des revenus. Cette analyse comparative apporte un éclairage utile sur les problématiques actuelles d’inégalités en Chine. Elle s’intéresse tout d’abord aux conséquences de ces évolutions sur l’inégalité des revenus dans le système de sécurité sociale fondé sur la famille. Elle s’attache ensuite à la contribution potentielle des réformes du système de sécurité sociale pour faire face aux inégalités croissantes. Trois grands résultats émergent de cette recherche : i) le système de sécurité sociale fondé sur la famille perd de son importance, du fait notamment de l’évolution de la structure des emplois au sein des ménages, qui aggrave nettement l’inégalité des revenus ; ii) l’introduction d’un nouveau système de sécurité sociale formelle favorise l’égalisation des revenus des membres retraités dans les ménages urbains ; iii) mais ces évolutions n’ont profité qu’à un nombre restreint d’individus. Les bénéfices pour les migrants des zones rurales sont faibles et, pour l’essentiel, la population rurale n’a toujours pas accès à ce nouveau système. Deux mesures contribueront à améliorer la situation — l’augmentation du niveau des fonds gérés en commun et l’intégration des travailleurs non agricoles dans le nouveau système.

Suggested Citation

  • Hiroko Uchimura, 2005. "Impact of Changes in Social Institutions on Income Inequality in China," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 243, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:devaaa:243-en
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/736168032763
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