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The University of Southampton
The Confucius Institute

The Evolution of Social Protection: China and Europe Compared Event

09:45 - 14:00
26 - 27 November 2015
Buiding 58, University of Southampton

For more information regarding this event, please email Sarah Healey at .

Event details

China and Europe are at very different stages of economic, social and political development. While rapid modernisation is taking place in China, the countries of the European Union experience very slow growth hand the pressure to contain social spending. This conference will compare the evolution of social protection systems in China and Europe since 2000, focusing in particular on the role of labour market related policies and pension policies. These two areas facilitate social integration in industrial market societies and they adapt constantly to changing societal circumstances. In the course of the two days participants will scrutinise these dynamics, asking what we can learn for social protection from studying the two regions comparatively. We look forward to seeing you.




Day 1

Thursday 26th November

Registration from 9.45am: Level 1 Foyer, Buiding 58

Labour markets and social security in Europe and China

10am Introduction & Offical Welcome, Professor Derek McGhee, Head Academic Unit of Social Sciences

10.15am to 11am, Room 1007, Lecture Theatre C, Building 58: Social Protection in Europe and China: Comparing the incomparable? Professor Traute Meyer, University of Southampton, UK

11.00am to 12.30pm, Room 1023, Lecture Room G, Building 58: Evaluation of labor market institutions and skilled labor market flexibility in China: a case study of the auto industry. Dr Vincent Yiu-por Chen, Associate Professor, City University of Hong Kong: Urban Labour market deregulation in China

The productive and protective dimensions of welfare in Asia and the Pacific: pathways towards human development and income equality? Dr. Stefan Kühner, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University ofYork

12.30pm to 2pm: Lunch Level 1 Foyer, Building 58

2pm to 3.30pm, Room 1023, Building 58: Social Investment and Social Assistance: A Comparative Analysis across European Countries and China Dr . Olaf van Vliet, University of Leiden, the Netherlands

Support for the work-life balance in Europe: the impact of state, workplace and family support on work-life balance satisfaction. Dr. Anja-Kristin Abendroth, Associate Professor, University of Bielefeld, Germany

3.30pm to 4pm Tea and Coffee, Level 1 Foyer, Building 58

4pm to 5pm, Location tbc. Roundtable discussion with all presenters of Day 1: Labour market challenges: comparing China and Europe Convenor: Dr Milena Buchs, Associate Professor, University of Southampton, UK

5pm, Turner Sims, Highfield Campus. Opening of the China Research Centre at the University of Southampton: Reception with drinks – Professor Derek McGhee


Day 2

Friday 27th November

Pension reform in China – new social rights and their impact

9am to 10.30am, Room 1023, Building 58: Pension reform in China – from multi-tier to multi-pillar? Dr Taichang Chen, Assistant Professor, Remnin University Bejing

Gender and public pensions in China: do pensions reduce the gender gap in compensation? Dr Tianhong Chen, Lecturer, Guangdong Institute of Public Administration

10.30am to 11am Tea and Coffee, Room 2040, Building 45

11am to 12.30pm, Room 2040, Building 45: The politics of choice in occupational pensions Dr Karen Anderson, Associate Professor University of Southampton

The Unexpected Rise of the State in Liberal Pension Systems, Dr Paul Bridgen, Associate Professor, University of Southampton

12pm to 1pm Lunch, Room 2040, Building 45

1pm to 2pm, Room 2040, Building 45: Roundtable discussion with all presenters of day 2: Pension reform: comparing China and Europe. Convenor: Dr. Johan Nordensvaard, Associate Professor, University of Southampton


Conference Abstracts

Support for the work-life balance in Europe: the impact of state, workplace and family support onwork-life balance satisfaction. Dr Anja-Kristin Abendroth, Associate Professor, University of Bielefield, Germany

This presentation studies the relevance of different types of support for satisfaction with work life balance: state, instrumental and emotional workplace and family support, based on a survey of 7867 service-sector workers ineight European countries. I will map the available state, workplace and family support in order to determine which source dominates in which country and whether these sources match Esping-Andersen’s welfare regime typology. When examining the impact of support I found that support for employee work-life balance satisfaction has a direct and moderating effect. Finally, results show that emotional support and instrumental support in the workplace have a complementary relationship. Whereas emotional family support has a positive impact on work-life balance satisfaction, instrumental family support does not.

The politics of choice in occupational pensions. Dr Karen Anderson Associate Professor, University of Southampton

Research on pension reform has developed into an important research area in political science, sociology and economics. Most research in this area focuses on the attempts of governments to deal with the challenge of adapting existing pension schemes to the constraints posed by ageing, fiscal austerity, and the increase in non-standard employment. Scholars have devoted much less analytical attention to an important aspect of many reform processes: attempts to increase freedom of choice within existing public and private pension schemes. This presentation will address this gap in the literature by analyzing the introduction and/or expansion of individual choice in three countries: Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark. It will draw on the literature concerning individual choice in social service provision to unravel the political drivers of expanded choice in both private and public pension provision. The paper will analyse the the political processes that led to the introduction of these individual choices. In Sweden, individual choice in mandatory accounts was highly contested. Individual accounts and individual choice were the centerpiece of the pension reform for the non-socialist parties, wheras the Social Democratic Party strongly opposed them. The Social Democrats accepted individual choice as part of larger compromise. In contrast, Danish and Dutch occupational pension schemes have introduced individual choice without much controversy. The presentation explains this difference by emphasising how policy legacies in the public and private social policymaking areas shaped outcomes.

The Unexpected Rise of the State in Liberal Pension Systems. Dr Paul Bridgen, Associate Professor, University of Southampton

Most comparative research on welfare state adaption suggests the existing institutional infrastructure of a policy system will determine to a significant extent its reform path in the face of exogenous structural challenges. Scholarship of this type has focussed primarily during the last two decades on continental Europe and its conservative and social democratic welfare states (eg Palier 2010). The reform path in liberal welfare capitalism was anticipated as being more straightforward, with welfare states immediately vulnerable to retrenchment. Yet, empirically, a strengthening of state provision and regulation has been noted in these systems, particularly with respect to pensions (Meyer/Bridgen 2012; Lain et al 2012). This paper confirms a strengthening of the state’s role in most liberal pension systems in recent years. It argues that these developments can be explained only if greater attention is paid to non-state provision as a source of political dynamism. State regulation of this sphere, the paper suggests, has led to cross-class expectations of shared, rather than individual, responsibility for pensions above the basic public standard which act to mitigate broader retrenchment pressures.

Pension reform in China – from multi-tier to multipillar? Dr Taichang Chen, Assistant Professor, Remnin University, Beijing

Pension reform has been an ongoing process in the world's most populous country over the past two decades, and has been guided by four principles: high coverage rate, basic protection, sustainability and multi-tiers. China aims to establish a unified pension system to provide universal social protection in old age. In this article, we presented an overview of China’s pension system. In particular, we focused on the urban pension system and its upcoming reforms including merging the dual-track urban pension system, raising retirement ages, and investing pension funds in stock market. We analysed and argued that the principles guiding pension reform are contradictory. On one hand, to achieve a high pension coverage rate, it is not possible to provide the basic protection (a replacement rate of 60%) that the current policy targeted. On the other hand, if China’s pension system covers most of its retirees and provides the targeted pension benefit, it will not be financial sustainable. Reasons include empty individual account, low return of pension funds and free riders. We argued that it is not necessary to establish a one-size-fits-all model for all retirees. Instead, a multi-pillar pension system that fit different groups of people was proposed.

Gender and public pensions in China: Do pensions reduce the gender gap in compensation. Dr Tianhong Chen, Lecturer, Guandong Institute of Public Administration

This paper analyzes gender issues with respect tothe largest mandatory social security program in urban China, the Urban Employees’ Pension Program. The paper uses the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) for 2011 to empirically analyze the causes of gender differences in benefit levels between men and women. We argue that raising the retirement age for women from its current age of 50 for most women would be a major step toward gender equality in social security pension benefits for men and women. Women would have higher social security benefits than currently due to having longer working careers, and they may have higher wages as a result of their longer careers. They would have higher benefits from the individual accounts due to more years of contributions and investment earnings, and a more generous benefit conversion factor due to the older age when they started receiving benefits. Nonetheless, an important feature of the Chinese social security system is that the gender gap in benefits is less than the gender gap in earnings. In many countries, the reverse is the situation, in part because women have fewer years of work, as well as lower earnings, than men. We explore reasons why the gender pension gap reduces the gender gap in compensation.

The productive and protective dimensions in Asia and the Pacific: pathways towards human development and income quality. Dr Stefan Kühner, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of York

This talk draws on recent data provided by the Asian Development Bank’s Social Protection Index and uses Fuzzy Set Ideal Type Analysis to develop ideal types of welfare activity to which 29 countries in Asia and the Pacific can have varying degrees of membership. There is little evidence that the commitment to “productive” and “protective” welfare is oriented along broad geographical units or predetermined by economic affluence and the size of the informal economy. It also adds an explorative Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis to test the effect of “productive” and “protective” welfare properties on human development and income equality. Here, it finds that the absence of strong income protection is most clearly linked to low human development at the macro-level; high education investment is linked to high income inequality if governments fail to invest in employment and income protection or employment protection and training, respectively.

Social Protection in Europe and China: Comparing the incomparable? Professor Traute Meyer, University of Southampton

In this introduction I will use the development of social policies in Europe and China in the 21st century as empirical starting point for a review of theoretical explanations of welfare state expansion and recalibration during austere times. I will reflect on what future Western-centric theories would expect for Chinese social policy, where such theories reach their limits and what we can learn from China for the construction of global comparative frameworks.

Social Investment and Social Assistance: A Comparative Analysis across European Countries and China. Dr Olaf van Vliet, Unviersity of Leiden, the Netherlands

Despite the fact that employment rates have increased in many European countries since the beginning of the 2000s, poverty rates have stagnated and in some countries even increased. In the welfare state literature, it has been argued that these disappointing poverty trends may be partly attributable to the reforming of traditional welfare state programmes into social investment policies, because the latter are less redistributive. To date, there are only a few systematic comparative empirical analyses which focus on the outcomes of social investment policies. This contribution presents an empirical analysis of the distributional effects of shifts from traditional welfare state arrangements to social investment policies across European countries. The results suggest that the detrimental effect of social investment policies, described in some specific cases in the literature, cannot begeneralised across a larger group of European countries. However, for European countries other than the Nordic countries, the results provide some evidence for a linkage between stagnating or increasing poverty trends and shifts in expenditures to new welfare state programmes. Subsequently, the contribution focuses on social assistance benefits, as an important safeguard against low income and poverty. New indicators will be presented to compare the developments of social assistance benefits across European countries and China.

Evaluation of labor market institutions and skilled labor market flexibility in China: a case study of the auto industry. Dr Vincent Yiu-por Chen, City University of Hong Kong

China has experienced a rapid transition of labor market institution and labor market conditions since the SOEs’ reform in 1993. This presentation will first start off with a brief review about the development of the labor contract laws and related Social Security reforms in China since then. I will then show how skilled labour is used in a flexible way in the sophisticated labor intensive industry by focusing on the Chinese auto industry. This case study uses a comparative case study method which includes workers’ interviews and a shop floor level worker survey from five major car makers’ plants in China in 2011. This case study uncovered the way that skilled flexible workers were treated depended on management skills, labor contract law and the demands for high–end consumer products. The major findings of our study are, first, in general, there are some difference between regular workers and agency workers, in terms of wages and welfare. However, these differences may not lead to major divergences in workers' attitudes towards their employment and companies. The skilful manipulation of wages, benefits, “humanitarian management”, and trade union’s paternalistic management style is quite successful in diffusing some potential hostility towards management.



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