International Development Planning Review

New urban poverty in China: Disadvantaged retrenched workers

International Development Planning Review (2004), 26, (2), 117–139.

Abstract

China's state-owned enterprise reform has laid off tens of millions of workers (xiagang zhigong) and created a massive new urban underclass. According to the central government's policies, 'retrenched' does not necessarily mean 'unemployed' and a handful of countermeasures to alleviate urban poverty were put into practice. Have these policies been implemented? Were these central government policies implemented correctly at the grassroots level? How have retrenched workers been treated? This paper uses interviews with individual retrenched workers to provide different stories about the reasons they were retrenched; how they were retrenched; the 'invisible injuries' they have been enduring; and their views about social and political issues. This paper concludes that this disadvantaged urban underclass could become a new element of social unrest and a real threat to the Chinese government if no further attention is given to them.

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Wang, Mark