Unemployment, poverty and gender in urban China: perceptions and experiences of laid off workers in three Chinese cities.
Since the mid-1990s China has speeded up the process of restructuring its state-owned enterprises. As a result large numbers of urban workers have been made redundant, with significant evidence pointing to women and those aged over 40 being more likely to be laid off and less likely to find re-employment. The research reported on here is part of a project which explores these new forms of poverty and vulnerability in urban China and the appropriateness of the government's policy responses. This report is based on analysis of interviews and focus group discussions with 63 women and 30 men in three Chinese cities - Beijing, Changchun and Ya'an. The respondents had all been made redundant from their jobs in the state sector. Through their own words, we examine their experiences and perceptions of unemployment and poverty, the coping strategies they deploy and the sources of support on which they rely, as well as how their perceptions and experiences are mediated by l gender and age. The interviews demonstrate a range of perspectives on what constitutes poverty in the urban context - as relative, multi-dimensional and involving non-material as well as material aspects. The interviews also reveal how loss of employment, and related decline in economic and social status, is experienced differently by men and women. The respondents are acutely aware of how their experiences have been shaped by broader political events and policies - both contemporary, and historical. The study is based on in-depth qualitative research with a small group of laid off workers, and makes no claims to representativeness. Rather, we have attempted to present as accurately as possible the voices of the laid off workers and to portray their experiences in the hope that these may inform both policy interventions and the design and interpretation of quantitative survey work on urban poverty. (excerpt)