The Introduction of Workfare in Mainland Chinaļ¼šIllusion of Welfare Dependency and "Conditional" Citizenship

Although the original policy framework for the MLSS designed by the central government in mainland China had no clear-cut idea of workfare, its changing attitudes expressed in policy documents thereafter had encouraged local governments to embrace workfare measures at their discretions. Local governments have introduced a range of measures corresponding with the idea of workfare, such as "work first", training and financial incentives to require the MLSS recipients seek jobs and improve employability.
The flawed mechanisms of the MLSS, such as gap-filling style income support scheme, the attached benefits to the MLSS recipient and the neglecting of the family size's impact on living expenses may partially justify the local governments' workfare measures. But taking the subsistence level of the MLSS benefit and the unregistered employment of the recipients into consideration, the workfare measures are just a reaction to an illusion of welfare dependency.
In practice, the idea of "activation", particularly providing training and/or financial incentive measures to assist the unemployed, is lagging far behind the idea of "work first", for example, punishing those refuse to work or not showing willingness to get re-employed. With such a creeping conditionality, the MLSS has been experiencing a complex shift from a "moderate protectivist" scheme to an "aggressive productivist" one in some major cities in China.
Unlike the introduction of workfare as the reaction to the welfare dependence in other countries, the local governments' initiatives of workfare in mainland China is mostly motivated by the spending reining incentive of this general tax financed income maintenance pregame. The decentralization of social expenditure responsibility to local governments without sound fiscal transfer payment resulted in the fiscal pressure of social assistance and social welfare program. And more important, without sound accountability in local governance, the citizenship is "conditional" and unprotective.