Working Poor in Decommodification Between Belgium and China

Working Poor in Decommodification Between Belgium and China

Jinghong Liu
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/JCAD.2021010102
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The research uses a comparative analysis framework to interpret the multiple commodification processes for the working poor, which consists of research tropisms from a macro-sight system and from the internal mechanism and proceeding course of the social security system. Based on this framework, the authors try to establish an ideal type with a universal explanatory power to reveal the impact of cross-national diversity on social security systems in the decommodification process among poor female workers. The research also examines the extent to which such differences ever existed between Belgium and China in empirical terms.
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The state is the sum of the public services already established.

—Brousse, P. (2011). La propriété collective et les services publics. Le Bord de l'eau.



According to the cross-national observation, women who work in poverty have different profiles in Belgium and China. The research explains why this kind of gendered poverty still exists amidst a vigorously developing economy, promoting the employment rate, and pursuing gender equality. In other words, under the ever-improving social security systems and their corresponding global and local markets, how can the possible effects of these changes on the increase of poor, female workers in the labor market be interpreted?

Different national paths in social security developments are nothing new in comparative social policy, but the different social security system designs have different ways of shaping the working in poverty. Regarding poverty, the debate of social security systems, in general, provides valuable insights in both conceptual and explainable terms but is not directly applicable to comparative analysis due to the diverse national contents. To close this analytic gap and respond to the questions mentioned above, we introduce “decommodification” as a unique analysis perspective. In this way, individuals can better understand how social security settings can help workers face possible risks throughout their lives. Also, it enables individuals to recognize the institutional differences of their relevant, international support level. To a large extent, the working poor deserve proper decommodification through a refined social security system. In nations with diverse developmental processes in terms of “modernization” and “globalization”, there are significant differences in organizing social security systems. Systems vary in the relative importance of commodified and decommodification processes, concerning the degree to which social benefits connect to contributions associated with paid workers and the degree to which programs have specific provisions for different working groups. On this premise, the risk of poverty depends primarily on income (e.g., salary), but it also depends on the level of social protections received by those with low pay in the labor market. In this paper, we understand the diversity of women who work in poverty by observing the adequacy1 of social support from diverse social security systems internationally; one can assume that the risk of poverty among the employed population might also come from the “turning a blind eye” to existing social security.

Before the implementation of the comparative study, we first trace Esping-Andersen’s proposed “decommodification” back to a Marxist origin. In the Marxist view of the labor market, capital commercialization of the labor force refers to the means of subsistence for laborers and mainly depends on selling their labor (Marx, 1967). Thus, the employment relationship becomes generally tradable, and workers always count as the “imaginary goods” (Polanyi & MacIver, 1944). In this context, the explanation of poverty since the 19th century was no longer limited to individual factors. The uncontrolled conditions for workers into poverty (i.e., the “working poor” today) can be recognized as a process of materialization, alienation, or “recommodification” in the labor market (Holden, 2003).

On this basis, Esping-Andersen (1990) coined “decommodification” as the central character of welfare, which signals “the degree to which individuals, or families, can uphold a socially acceptable standard of living independently of market participation” (p. 3). In this sense, “decommodification” serves against human’s high dependence on “pure market force” (Esping-Andersen, 2000). In his influential publication The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Esping-Andersen developed a welfare state typology based on three dimensions: the relationship between the state and the market in the deliverance of welfare, the stratifying effects of the welfare state, and the quality of social rights (Dewilde, 2006). Among them, the last dimension is the extent of decommodification. Decommodification reflects the correlation between the distribution of social benefits and a worker’s contribution to the market. The closer the relationship is, the lower the decommodification is, and vice versa.

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