chapter  4
34 Pages

Gender, Work and Security in Urban China: The Reconstruction of Identity as Laid-off Worker

BySarah Cook, Susan Jolly

The rapid change in the nature of employment relations in urban China is creating new and increasingly visible forms of insecurity and poverty. A new class of informally employed working poor is emerging as the state sector workforce is radically downsized and previously secure urban workers join an already visible population of low-income city dwellers — the rural migrants. Many urban residents, previously guaranteed employment, housing and benefi ts through the ‘iron rice bowl’, now fi nd themselves dependent on marginal and insecure income sources, and increasingly in competition with migrants (previously excluded from urban employment and services) for low paid and informal jobs. The partial breakdown in the longstanding dualism — of generous benefi ts for a minority, and rigid exclusion for the rest of the workforce — contributes to the trends of rising inequality, marginalisation and insecurity in urban China.