This article presents a systematic examination of the workplace-based welfare system in urban China. During the pre-reform period from 1949 to 1978, most welfare provisions in China were delivered and the majority of welfare spending was spent by workplace units. Since China's market transition started in the late 1970s, this workplace-based welfare system is no longer financially sustainable, and more importantly its functioning constitutes an impediment to the formation of an institutional configuration for a market economy in China. The Chinese government has therefore experienced increasing pressure to reshape this workplacebased welfare system into a genuine welfare state, so as to shift the responsibilities of welfare provisions from individual work units to government bodies. Some institutional arrangements characteristic of welfare pluralism, which emphasize that the state, employers, and individuals share welfare responsibilities, are also incorporated into the newly emergent social welfare system in urban China.

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