Building China’s Eldercare Market: The Imperatives of Capital Accumulation and Social Stability
2. The End of Danwei and the Commodification and Privatization of Social Reproduction/Care
every form of capitalist society harbours a deep-seated social reproductive ‘crisis tendency’ or contradictions: on the one hand, social reproduction is a condition of possibility for sustained capital accumulation; on the other, capitalism’s orientation to unlimited accumulation tends to destabilize the very processes of social reproduction on which it relies. This social-reproductive contradiction of capitalism lies at the root of the so-called crisis of care. Although inherent in capitalism as such, it assumes a different and distinctive guise in every historically specific form of capitalist society—in the liberal, competitive capitalism of the 19th century; in the state-managed capitalism of the postwar era; and in the financialized neoliberal capitalism of our time.
3. Outsourcing and Privatizing Eldercare Service Provision
4. Regulating the Eldercare Sector
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
In contrast to market capitalism, China’s capitalist system should be described as state capitalism because “state owned enterprises remain central to its evolving model fo political economy” (Naughton and Tsai 2015, p. 3).
Eldercare is “the provision, purchase or securing of care and/or assistance for individuals over the age of 55 by a family member, friend or community agency” (Chenier 1994). It is part of broader social and institutional systems of care, or “care regimes” (Kofman and Raghuram 2010). The latter are “the institutional and spatial arrangements (locations) for the provision and allocation of care” (Kofman and Raghuram 2010, p. 51), which emerge through state, market, family, and community interactions (Razavi 2007).
Danwei was the Maoist era workplace institution that organized all aspects of urban employees’ lives. Far more from a “workplace” in any Western liberal-democratic sense, danwei provided lifelong work, welfare benefits, and a basis for social identity. Urban employees paid back with their loyalty to the Party.
According to the definition of family/household (jia 家) used by Chinese census, “people who have family relations (or other members) and who live together count as a family/household; the person who lives alone counts as a family/household.” According to Chinese scholars such as Fei Xiaotong, the Chinese conception of jia should be properly translated into English as “expanded family” because the family is not just about husband–wife relations, but also about intergenerational relations (see Peng and Hu 2015, p. 117; Fei et al. 1992, pp. 81–86).
Song Shaopeng prefers the use of collectivism to socialism or Maoist China to describe the period between 1950s and 1970s to move beyond what she considers the latter two terms as being couched in cold war ideology.
Employees from SOEs fared better than those from non-SOEs, the former left largely through “retirement”, while the latter left largely through “dismissals, resignations, or transfers” (Frazier 2015, p. 231). However, there was a wide range of categories with different benefits through different degrees of attachment to workers’ former employers. (See, for example, S. Chen 2003, pp. 248–50; Yang 2002, p. 111).
Care crisis in rural China is even more serious as a result of poverty, rural to urban migration and insufficient social welfare system. “Poverty prevents the elderly from seeking treatment for their illness and creates discord witht the family” (Pan 2017, p. 191). Rural social security system was set up between 2003 and 2007 in response to rising poverty in rural China. (See, for example, Nguyen and Chen 2017; Shi 2012; Pan 2017).
Shanghai is a centrally administered municipality (zhixiashi). In Chinese administrative hierarchies, it is equivalent to a province. In Shanghai, the multiple levels of subordinate government include (from largest to smallest) district (qu), street (jiedao), and community (shequ).
All of my interviewees remain anonymous.
There are also privately-owned and operated domestic serive companies (jiazheng gongsi), but my article focuses on government-owned but privately operated domestic services for clients who receive government-subsidized in-kind domestic services.
Hukou (household registration) institutionalized the rural/urban divide in social service provision. Hukou essentially acts as local citizenship rights. Internal migrants, whose hukou remains rural, have little leverage to make claims on public resources in the cities in which they reside. They, therefore, have an incentive to maintain their elderly relatives at their home communities (for many years, the same applied for their children), an arrangement that implies its own problems.
The problem of providing affordable eldercare to working class and lower middle class pensioners is something I often heard about during my interviews.
In the Chinese policy language, an official Opinion (yijian) does not have legal status, but does have a ppowerful political guidance effect on subordinate government and party units. It is an interpretive framework for administering a particular policy problem.
I was shown an information platform that monitors live-out eldercare workers working on site in June 2017 when I visited a district eldercare service center.
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Xu, F. Building China’s Eldercare Market: The Imperatives of Capital Accumulation and Social Stability. Soc. Sci. 2022, 11, 212. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050212
Xu F. Building China’s Eldercare Market: The Imperatives of Capital Accumulation and Social Stability. Social Sciences. 2022; 11(5):212. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050212Chicago/Turabian Style
Xu, Feng. 2022. "Building China’s Eldercare Market: The Imperatives of Capital Accumulation and Social Stability" Social Sciences 11, no. 5: 212. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11050212