Past Event

Welfare Boundary for Migrant Families in China: What, Where, and How?

April 20, 2023
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
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Speaker: Qiaobing Wu, Associate Professor of Social Policy, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Moderator: Qin Gao, Professor and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, Director of China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University School of Social Work

With the recent reform of household registration system (hukou) in China, equalizing welfare benefits and public services among all Chinese citizens regardless of their hukou status has been the goal and direction of social welfare provision. However, migrants in the urban cities are still living on the periphery and faced with various barriers to access welfare benefits and services. This study argues that, despite the reform of the hukou registration, the conflict between the universal rights of all citizens in a society and the limited resources for welfare provision in a particular place will continue to exist. Consequently, the compromise between the rights and resources would create a threshold that defines a set of eligibility criteria to decide who are included/excluded from enjoying the benefits. It proposes a new conceptual construct, welfare boundary, to delineate such a compromised threshold. Taking into account migrants’ subjective experiences of welfare access, it further identifies two forms of welfare boundary: institutional (derived from policies) and perceptional (derived from migrants’ own experiences). Drawing upon qualitative data collected in southern China where a great many migrants are concentrated, this study elaborates on the two forms of welfare boundary through understanding from the migrants’ own perspectives that how welfare boundary is defined, where welfare boundary exists, how it is manifested, perceived and experienced by migrants and their families, and how they cope and negotiate with the welfare boundaries. This research contributes to our understanding of China’s current mobility regime characterized by differential inclusion in the context of ongoing reform and development.

This event is part of the 2022-2023 lecture series on “Urbanization, Well-being, and Public Policy: China from Comparative Perspectives” and is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and cosponsored by Columbia's China Center for Social Policy. 

Registration: To attend this event online, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan