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MERICS study on social service delivery in China

Growth is no longer the only imperative in China. From a rapidly ageing society to a dramatic rise in inequality, the country is in a similar predicament as many developed economies. China’s leaders are aware that political stability is at risk unless they are able to guarantee equal access to quality health care, education, housing and employment.

A new MERICS report, “Serve the people. Innovation and IT in China’s social development agenda,” examines new social policy approaches in all these areas – from the provision of affordable urban housing to the alleviation of poverty in rural areas. As with the economic reform in the past, local experimentation plays a major role in shaping these policies. Digital solutions are encouraged as a way to connect remote communities to labor markets or to high-quality medical care.

In this MERICS Paper on China edited by Matthias Stepan (MERICS) and Jane Duckett (University of Glasgow), ten social policy experts from four continents examine how recent advances can help improve social service delivery in China – allowing it to catch up to OECD countries and perhaps even to serve as a model for the developing world.

The world’s most populous country faces gigantic social policy challenges. China’s society is rapidly ageing and the wealth and income gap between urban and rural areas is as wide as never before. Rapid urbanization and the privatization of state-owned enterprises have left many citizens without access to public social services – and many local governments lack the funds to provide them.

The Chinese government is acutely aware of the urgency of these problems. In the first two decades of the 21st century, it has shifted from an almost exclusive obsession with economic growth to the delivery of public services across the population. Between 2010 and 2016, China increased its spending on social services on average by 10 percent every year.

Click here to download the MERICS Paper on China "Serve the people. Innovation and IT in China’s social development agenda" as PDF.