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From Iron Rice Bowl to InformalizationMarkets, Workers, and the State in a Changing China$
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Sarosh Kuruvilla, Ching Kwan Lee, and Mary E. Gallagher

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450242

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450242.001.0001

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Introduction and Argument

Introduction and Argument

(p.1) Chapter 1 Introduction and Argument
From Iron Rice Bowl to Informalization

Mary E. Gallagher

Ching Kwan Lee

Sarosh Kuruvilla

Cornell University Press

This chapter describes the transformation of the Chinese employment structure following thirty years of economic reform (1978–2008). Notable among these changes is the dramatic growth in informal employment. Informal here refers to employment that is not stable or secure, lacks a written agreement or contract, and does not provide social insurance or benefits. Within a generation, urban China has shifted from a highly protected “iron rice bowl” system that guaranteed workers permanent employment, cradle-to-grave benefits, and a relatively high degree of equality to a market-driven employment system characterized by variations in wages, welfare provision, labor law enforcement, and job security. This book examines the strategies and responses of the Chinese state, workers, and civil society to this growth in informal employment.

Keywords:   employment structure, China, economic reform, employment security, informal employment, iron rice bowl

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