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Poverty, Disability and Access to Social Welfare in the People’s Republic of China (completed)

The project is an ethnographic study of the relations between poverty and disability in rural communities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), focusing especially on the implementation of new health policies.

Photo: Gry Sagli

About the project

The project aims to develop holistic analyses of local poverty mechanisms, household dynamics and cultural perceptions of disability, and by doing do, to contribute to the international research and policy on poverty reduction in general, and among disabled persons in particular.

Based in two rural areas in the PRC (in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region), the project explores local experiences of the new welfare policies, such as the rural health insurance (xinnonghe).


The project aims to obtain a better understanding of the interconnectedness between poverty and disability in poor rural communities in the People’s Republic of China, and develop suggestions of ways in which the ‘vicious circle’ of disability and poverty can be broken.


The background for the project is the knowledge that persons with disabilities are among the particularly vulnerable groups in PRC during the current period of rapid economic growth. One fifth of the persons with disabilities in rural regions (13 million) live in extreme poverty, with a total household income of less than 2,5 Yuan (USD 0.37)/day (Ministry of Health et al. 2007).


  1. Poverty and disability in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia: Local manifestation of new schemes of social security and their perceived impact on access to services by persons with disabilities (Project leader: Dr. Gry Sagli)
  2. Reducing poverty through preferential treatment? The case of disability in Chifeng (Project leader Prof. Benedicte Ingstad)
  3. Poverty and disability in Tibet: identifying poverty traps among disabled in the countryside (Project leader Dr. Heidi Fjeld)


The Norwegian Research Council, “Poverty and Peace” 


  • China Association of Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (CARDP)
  • Chifeng Disabled Persons’ Federation
  • Handicap International, Lhasa

Start - Finish

Spring 2009-summer 2012


Fjeld, Heidi E. and Sagli, Gry, “Disability, poverty and health care: Changes in the canji (‘disability’) policies in the history of the People’s Republic of China”, in Disability and poverty: A global change,  Ingstad, Benedicte  and Eide, Arne (eds), 2011, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Published Apr. 5, 2011 8:03 PM - Last modified Apr. 13, 2016 10:10 AM


Project leader:

Prof Em. Benedicte Ingstad