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Comparative Politics

B18 - Social Welfare Policies

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 12:00pm to 01:30pm | Location: SWING 205

Chair/Président/Présidente : Carmen J. Ho (University of Guelph)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Philippe Martin (Université d'Ottawa)

The Politics of Redistribution: A Comparison of Social Protection Policies in China and India: Carmen Jacqueline Ho (University of Guelph), Daniel Béland (McGill University), Dragana Bodruzic (University of Toronto), Shih-Jiun Shi (National Taiwan University)
Abstract: An established body of research shows that democratic political regimes are more responsive to their citizens than their authoritarian counterparts (Boix, 2003; Haggard and Kaufman, 2008; Huber, Mustilo, and Stephens, 2008; Lake and Baum, 2001; Meltzer and Richard, 1981; McGuire, 2010; Wong, 2006). Yet China, an authoritarian regime, has introduced more comprehensive social welfare policies than India, a democratic regime. This paper compares China’s Minimum Living Standard Scheme to India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee to explain why an authoritarian regime distributes more to its poor. We introduce an analytical framework that highlights two factors – bureaucratic structures and state-society relations – to explain countries’ diverging policies. Our paper shows how China’s centralized, top-down bureaucracy has been able to push through social welfare policies, while India’s decentralized, fragmented bureaucracy faces hurdles doing so. In addition, we argue that the extent to which the rights-based approach allows citizens to make claims on the state helps to explain policy variation. This study deepens the theoretical literature on the welfare state by elaborating on the political dynamics that drive social policy development in the global south. Moreover, China and India make up more than a third of the world’s population. Understanding how China has expanded its social protection programs, while India has lagged behind, has implications for the well-being of millions of people.


Authoritarian Containment and the Contracting out of Social Welfare Delivery to NGOs in China: Philippe Martin (University of Ottawa)
Abstract: The most recent phase in China’s welfare reforms entails the spread of the contracting out approach, whereby local governments at the municipal level and below rely on NGOs for social welfare delivery. Pioneered in major cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, the outsourcing of public services became national policy in 2013. Local governments are now required to purchase services from NGOs and so-called nonprofit incubators have also been set up in several cities to promote capacity building for the contracting out of social services to NGOs. Meanwhile, changes in the regulatory landscape for Chinese NGOs have altered their registration requirements and management. The Chinese government has invested massively in social organizations, while promoting a public discourse that emphasizes the importance of government-NGO collaboration. Although governmental contracting out of welfare services to NGOs is relatively common in post-industrial countries, it represents a new endeavour in China. Why and how would a single-party authoritarian regime increase the provision of public services by encouraging the development of a growing and increasingly professional nonprofit sector? Based on a qualitative research design that combines several months of fieldwork in China with documentary research, this paper argues that the contracting out approach represents a strategy of institutional containment aimed at maintaining social stability and shaping linkages between the non-profit sphere and party-state actors, while containing the political pluralization potential of the former.


Different Governments Similar Incentives: Youth Activation Partisan Preferences in Denmark, France and the United Kingdom: Shannon Dinan (Université de Montréal)
Abstract: The rise in youth unemployment following the financial crisis has prompted many countries to adopt youth activation policies. But evidence from recent analyses does not show a concomitant increase in spending. Instead, general activation research points to convergence towards low-cost policies. This finding is unexpected given that needs between countries continue to vary. Researchers have not yet explicitly compared how nations have addressed the issue of youth employment since the financial crisis and the Great Recession. In this article, the author argues that it is necessary to understand how welfare states are balancing on the tightrope to allocate scarce resources to address youth unemployment because labour market integration has significant effects on individuals' long-term well-being. To unravel this complex policy area the article applies existing activation literature to one determinant of youth activation policies, partisan preferences. Preferences are analyzed by determining and comparing the activation incentive mixes in three countries, Denmark, France and the United Kingdom, between 2008 and 2016. This research provides a better understanding of what incentives governments are adopting for youth. The analysis draws on data from the Labour Market Reforms Database, policy reports, legislative debates and interviews. Findings indicate that left-right government changes did not lead to significant activation incentive differences. Contrary to expectations, there is considerable continuity within cases. Essential disparities between governments remain nonetheless. These discrepancies mainly concern target populations and policy implementation and can lead to substantive policy differences.


Fragmented Authoritarianism and China's New Urbanization Program: Sen Lin (MacEwan University)
Abstract: This paper examines a key policy in China’s New Urbanization Program that was promulgated by the national authority in March 2014. The policy promises to turn large number of rural migrants in the cities into “new urban citizens” who would have equal access to job opportunities, public health care, and other social programs that only urban hukou holders can have. This paper finds that the nationwide implementation of this policy has been varied. For example, it has been relatively easier for migrants in the cities of the central and western regions to attain the status of new urban citizen than those in the cities of the coastal region. These local varieties suggest that the approach of fragmented authoritarianism continues to be relevant today even though the power of the party-state has been increasingly centralized under Mr. Xi Jinping. The approach sees the central authority of the party-state and the numerous local governments have their distinctive interests and priorities that can be at odds and even in conflicts with one another. Such fragmented interests and concerns would affect the local authorities’ attitudes towards national policies, ranging from full compliance to selective or delayed implementation. The different scopes and speeds in the local implementations of the national policy on new urban citizens attest to this line of analysis; they also reveal that Mr. Xi’s centralization of power has its limits in terms of penetrating China’s bureaucratic hierarchy that is melded with the country’s social and regional complexity.


Parents' Practices in a Highly Competitive and Regulated Education Market: Manon Laurent (Concordia University / Université Paris Diderot)
Abstract: To build the China Dream, the current Chinese government emphasizes the role of education, not only as a propaganda tool but also to train an innovative and competitive population. However, like many states the Chinese state is torn between ensuring quality and selectiveness and guaranteeing fairness and equality. I argue that the Chinese authoritarian regime empowers parents in their child’s education. So that parents feel responsible for their child’s education and life success. I broaden Cruikshank’s (1999) argument beyond democratic settings and show that this empowerment “contains the twin possibilities of domination and freedom” (Cruikshank 1999, 3). This process participates in a dispositif to control the population (Ferguson et Gupta 2002, 994; Foucault 2006) which is key sign of a resilient authoritarian system. In a highly competitive schooling context, this paper shows how parents act simultaneously as disruptive agents and compliant citizens-subjects. This paper aims to understand how the interaction between parents, public, and private actors shapes the definition of ‘good’ parenting practices and enables parents to obtain the most suitable education resources for their child. Based on forty interviews with urban middle-class parents and actors of the Chinese education system (bureaucrats and private company managers), I observed that parents build solidarity network to strategize and implement the most appropriate education plan for their child. Despite the Chinese governments’ (local and national) constant attempts to regulate the education market and formalize the enrollment procedures, it seems that informal ties remain the central resource for parents regarding school choice.

325.Laurent.pdf