Globalisation and Social Policy
Whether a state is classed as economically developed or developing, globalisation will impact upon national social policy choices in a variety of ways
Currently, each and every field or an industry in the world is being affected by globalisation. This can be observed in the field of social work. Globalisation is defined as a process of leading to greater interdependence and mutual awareness among the economic, social and political units (Waters 1995; Held et al, 1999). The important motivational factors which push this process are the development in transportation and communication technologies, together with the internationalisation of capital which bridge and connect temporal, spatial and cultural distances and differences (Guillén 2001). Consequently, it is believed that the world is becoming a global society which is composed of networks in which flows of commodities, services, capital, technology, information, ideas, types of cultures and people in different countries (Castells 1996; Held et al., 1999).
Together with these changes in the global relationship, governments from different parts of the globe, together with the field of academe are focusing on the importance and influence of globalization towards the social policies being implemented inside the nation or the country. These social policies mainly focus on the different actions and strategies that will help in order to focus on social security. Social security regimes always involve family, the labour market and the country, with each of these important institutions contributing and communicating in order to focus on the overall human welfare and security. For the state and the government, social security involves those policies, strategies and programmes that are planned and implemented in order to support and encourage efficient and effective labour markets, protect individual citizen from risks which can be encountered in terms of earning in a living, at the same time, offering a safety net for periods when market or planning failure weakens the capability of the people to sufficiently provide for themselves as well as their families (Zhu and Nyland 2005).
Regardless of how people interpret and evaluate the influence of globalization, it is indisputable that the modern societies are being affected by the different global forces including economic, social, political as well as cultural (Mittelman 2000). Globalisation is considered as a very complicated and complex procedures of economic transaction and global telecommunication, therefore, many sociologists believe that the influence and effect of globalisation is profound because it is changing the way people live in the contemporary world (Waters 2001). It is important to take note that believing the market values and practices can help to encourage effectiveness and economy not just in the aspect of economic sphere but also in terms of social and public domains.
For a long time, China had been able to prevent the influence of other nations or countries by implementing their close door policy. However, just like other countries, China was not immune from the same processes of globalization. This has been more applicable when China has become a member and secured its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which made the country to open its door to the external world. Coping with the different risks and challenges of global capitalism, strategies which include privatisation, marketization, commodification and societalisation are implemented in order to redefine the connection between the nation or government, the market together with the different non-government organisations that are involved in the planning and implementation of social policies to lessen the welfare burdens originally borne by the government.
This paper will focus on analysing the influence of globalisation on the national social policy of China in its education and health system. The analysis focuses on the view or perspective of transformationalist wherein the author believes that the action of the government or the state is dependent on the different changes and development in the global environment.
Held and McGrew developed an analytic framework which is established by developing three part typology of theories of globalisation which include: hyper-globalist, sceptic and transformationalist categories. Hyperglobalist supposedly argue that “contemporary globalisation defines a new era in which people everywhere are increasingly subject to the disciplines of the global marketplace.” By focusing on the vitality of the global marketplace, multinational companies (MNCs) and inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) which control their activity are considered as vital political actors. On the other hand, sceptics, which include Hirst and Thompson (1996) apparently, argue that “globalisation is a myth which conceals the reality of an international economy increasingly segmented into three vital regional blocs in which national governments remain very powerful.” Lastly, transformationalists like Rosenau (1997) or Giddens (1990) believe that globalisation occurs as “a states and societies across the globe are experiencing a process of profound change as they try to adapt to a more interconnected but highly uncertain world” (Held and McGrews 1999).
This paper will use transformationalist’s view of globalisation. According to Held et al. (1999) the transformationalist perspective is different from the two perspectives in that:
- There is no single cause behind globalisation; and
- The result of globalisation process is not determined
Therefore, although transformationalist believe and describe many of the same primary changes that are involved in globalisation, their approach is considered as less certain regarding the historical trajectories of the said changes and less limiting of the different motivational or forces behind globalisation. Thus, transformationalist perspective has much less determinate understanding of the difference procedures involved in globalisation than the other perspectives. For those transformationalist authors the range of factors which affect the globalisation processes is much greater and the outcomes or effects are much less certain (Goldblatt et al. 2011).
Presentation of a Case
Over the last quarter of the 21st century the changes, reform and opening up policy had helped in order to accelerate the progress of the process of the modernisation of the Chinese society. Even though the traditional, conservative and obstructive feudalistic elements still occur, the major trend of the development of the Chinese society focuses on a more open, democratic and diverse future and this has already helped in order to create changes in every walk of life of Chinese people. Since in 1978 when China changed it’s purely publicly owned property economy to model which allowed the co-existence of different economic models. In 1992, the 14th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party explicitly declared that the target for the reform of the economic system was to create a market economy to improve the essential role of the market in the distribution of the resources, at the same time to weaken the state planning (Jiang 1992).
As a result, the economy of China has developed very quickly over the last decade, with an annual economic growth rate of more than 7% according to the report of the National Bureau of Statistics of People’s Republic of China (PRCNBS 2003). Thus, many authors and experts believe that the economic development and improvement of China is considered as the fastest economic development in the history of the contemporary economic world.
It is important to take note that the market economy in China did not only encouraged and changes the economic condition and growth of the country, but also affect the overall thinking, perspectives, motivation and behaviour of the citizens about financial matters, material consumption, as well as individual identity. But due to the unstable development state-wide, people from different parts of China differ greatly in terms of their value orientation, levels of education, lifestyles as well as living conditions.
Furthermore, the economic development and changes in China had helped in order to improve the standards of living of many people in the country, together with their capacity for consumption in the manners which are superficial to ordinary Chinese. For the last few years, the systems of housing, medical treatment and system, education have been changed and improved and these factors have become vital aspects of choice and consumption for the ordinary people as their income also increases. In addition, economic development and stabilisation in the country helped the Chinese people to have more leisure and entertainment than before by spending more time and money in shopping, amusement, study and sports, while those people with a good income focus on travelling and tourism in different parts of China as well as the globe. This is particularly because of the fact that the government focus on supporting the leisure time of its citizen by implementing holidays such as International Labour Day in May 1 and National Day in October 1, which are start of 7 day holiday periods, which enable the people to concentrate on their shopping and travelling in the two Golden Weeks (Wanxue and Hanwei 2004).
There is no doubt that the overall economic condition of China is continuously improving, the issue of regional economic differences between the regions in the country is becoming more and more serious and problematic. This can be observed between the differences between east and west and the urban and rural locations, which vitally affect the quality of life and the values of the people. For instance, in 2003, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the south-eastern Guangdong province was 1,344.993 billion RMB, the highest in the country, while the Tibet, the rural west only recorded a total of 18.450 billion RMB. In addition, the general average GDP per person in the urban city of Shanghai is 46585.2 RMB while the average GDP per person in the western province of Guizhou is only 3600 RMB (PRCNBS 2003). Above all, in the developed regions, places and cities in the eastern part of China, the major items of capital expenditure are cars; electronic gadgets, education as well as travels, while in the urban areas, villages as well as those underdeveloped regions in the western parts of the country are food and housing (Wanxue and Hanwei 2004).
Theoretically Informed Analysis
Globalisation and the increasing integration of the country in the world economy have created several changes and reforms in the administration and policies of the government. Globalisation has made the competitiveness of a nation the primary focus of the government, and it can be observed in the case of China. The process of integrating in the global economy has put great pressures, risks and challenges on the functioning of the government of China, together with its responsiveness. The heavy intervention, involvement and interference of the government in the economy of the country in the past have been proven to be no longer adequate or appropriate for the current market economy and free trade. In order for the government to attract and retain foreign investments within the country, at the same time, to secure high degree of economic growth, the Chinese government has been under continuous pressure from internal and external policies, practices and strategies which are consistent or will match the global trend and changes as a result, the role of the government together with its functions have been reconsidered over and over, and then changed and readjusted (Ngok and Zhu 2007).
One of the important factors which can be seen the influence of globalisation in the social policy of China pertains on the issue of education, international relations and human capital outflow. In the past, the government feared that having an educational relationship with the Western countries will also impose the values of Western towards the Chinese people, which will treathen the traditional role of Confucianism as the national essence (Su 1996). However, this has changed when the Republic of China era pushed the capitalist economic modernisation under the Nationalist government, which help and motivate the government to expand their relationship with other countries and gain access to the Western learning by supporting academic exchanges with different Western countries, such as the UK, Germany, France and Italy (Fang and Zhang 2001). The adoption of more open economic policies helped to improve the participation of China in the global economy upon joining the WTO in 2001. This helped China to establish their relationship with 108 countries by 2004 (MoE 2006a). Thus, the government, in order to take advantage of its population and further improve its education system, the government focus on choosing first-class students, and sending them to first-class universities in order to learn from first-class academics (China Views News Reporters 2006). Thus, the government is investing huge amount of money in order to send students and scholars to prestigious universities and schools in different parts of the globe particularly in the UK and the US. In addition, as part of strategy of the country in improving its human capital, the government also encourage students to study abroad. Due to the improvement of the economic condition of China, in 2004, there are 243,126 students who are studying abroad: 25.6% in the US; 22.2% in Japan; 13.9% in the UK; 8.2% in Australia and 7.3% in Germany (UNESCO Institute for Statistics 2007). In addition, the government also focus on the different efforts and strategies in enticing and attracting foreign-trained Chinese nationals to return and serve the country. This activities and efforts include: encouraging foreign-trained Chinese nationals to work for and run business in China and recruiting them to senior position in different prestigious universities or government leadership positions (Pan 2010).In addition, the country also focus on improving its current educational system by focusing on establishing relationship with other countries. Thus, in order to gain international recognition in the quality of higher education and attract international or foreign students, a mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) on higher education academic qualification with 25 developing countries in Asia, East Europe and Africa between 1988 and 2000 were signed by the country, then it was followed by MRAs with developed Western countries, including Germany and the UK, aside from that, the country also establish its bilateral cooperation and exchange programs with higher educational institutions and international organisations in more than 150 developing and developed nations, which include the US (MoE 2006b).
In the past, during the Mao era, the city residents enjoyed free health services run by the government and enterprises, however, in the current time they have to con-contribute to health financing. The post-Mao leaders saw health care as not directly related to economic growth, thus, the state set lower priority for investment. Furthermore, confronting the problems of misuse, waste, duplication as well as cost escalation have been bold and extensive in the health care system. The health care system reform focus on improving the range and degree of the quality of the health care system, offering incentives for quality services and enabling more flexible in offering the needs of local (Holliday and Wong 2003). Different from the Mao era, wherein the state took up the primary role in health financing, the post-Mao leadership focus on the development of the strategy that will put the economy first, by reducing the welfare burden of the state in the financing health care service via establishment of a contributory social insurance. In the past, the government handle the sole responsibility in the healthcare of the people, however, as part of the economic movement of the country, the government changed its intervention or control by enabling the residents of China to engage in co-payment and co-contribution systems by joining contributory social insurance for different medical cares and medicines, by enabling both the employees and employers to contribute to a semi-commercial hospital system and commercial medicine provision (Guan 2001). According to Zhou (2000) the primary objective of this change in the health care system is to change the traditional organized dependence towards the shared responsibilities of healthcare, which help to level down the limit of the state subsidies towards the health care services. However, the study of Cheung (2001) showed that this strategy did not helped in order to solve the problems of fund insolvency and conflicting interest of the treatment providers, insurers and patient. Thus, the government applied another change in the policy by focusing on a new health insurance scheme which covered those employees from the urban workforce. The scheme focus on the joint contribution (employers paying 6% of the wage bill, while the employees paying 2%). Under the new system, those outpatient medical costs can be partially or fully paid for by individuals which will depend on their age and the time of starting employment. In all of the cases, individuals have to use their money from their personal accounts first, and then when they reach a deficit on their account, the social pooling funds can be used in order to pay 50% to 70% of the deficit for some employees, while others have to pay the deficit completely by themselves. On the other hand, for the inpatient medical costs, the new system increased the premium of individuals, for the employees has to pay 10% of the prior year’s social average salary before the patient can acquire or have any assistance from the social pooling funds, compared with the old cost-sharing system wherein individuals will pay no more than 1,500 Yuan for all their expenses. So as to lessen the individual payment for the inpatient medical treatment and simplify the establishment of the new medical insurance system, the trade unions of other cities in the country are also implementing their own medical insurance schemes (Zhu and Nyland 2005).In addition, the government focus on the different insurance schemes which cover standard lists of drugs, treatments and services which are covered by the basic insurance.
As part of the pressure in China to focus on its economic improvement in order to sustain its position in the global economy, the government focus on reducing its financial support in the healthcare system unlike in the case of its education. Other than those covering basic salaries and the procurement and the repair of some expensive items still partially financed and supported by the funds and sources of the government, hospital funding is heavily and mostly dependent on the contributions not just from the state financial resources but also from those non-state funding, which include contributions from individuals and different organisations (Guan 2001). Thus, for the past years, healthcare systems and organisations in the country have been slowly and progressively moved from being administered and managed by the state health bureaus in direct manner into self-financing institutions, with the principal source of income that are generally created from fees given by the patients, rather than the budget allocated by the state (Cheung and Gu 2004).In order to lessen the burden of the state in the health care expenditures, the state or the government permitted hospitals and clinics to adopt commercialisation strategies in order to increase and improve its fund-stricken conditions (Mok n.d.).
There is no doubt that China is considered as one of the countries in the globe that have enabled to gain benefits and advantages in terms of globalisation. Currently, as part of its action or strategy in gaining and maintaining competitive position in the global economy, the country focus on changing, reforming and improving its health and education system.
The government focuses on improving its education system by offering sufficient and additional financial support to many educational institutions and organisations in the country to improve its educational quality, to produce more intelligent, talented and capable citizens, which will help in order to improve the human capital of the country, which is considered as one of the primary competitive edge of the country in the world. China is taking advantage of its huge population in order to attract more number of investments from foreign investors by offering highly capable and skilled worker in lower labour cost compare to other countries. Taking on the perspective of the transformationalist, the role and decision of the government have changed over time, but it did not increase or decrease, but change and enhance based on the needs or demands of the country. In the past, the government prevent its citizens from studying abroad or prevented its entire education system to use and apply those strategies and programmes that are used in Western countries in order to prevent the Western policies and cultures to influence its Chinese tradition. However, as the need to become global increases, the government decided to open up its educational system to the Western countries. In addition, the role of the government or the state in maintaining its educational system have been maintained, but the requirements and procedures were changed based on the changes in both national and global changes.
On the other hand, in the past, the government handled the sole responsibility or role in the health care needs of its citizens by ensuring that all health services are all freely available for the Chinese by funding heavy amount of money for the healthcare system, however, as time goes by, in order to focus more of the country’s fund to other economic activities, the government lessen its financial support to the healthcare system, thus enabling other private organisations to take over. This was also done by the government in order to encourage individual employees and employers, together with the private-owned medical and healthcare institutions to work with each other in terms of healthcare system.
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