Date01 October 2012
AuthorYi‐fan Yang
Published date01 October 2012
Southwest Jiaotong University, China
Frequently, the discourses on land management and social security policy are kept separate from each other. Access to vital land
uses or tenure security, however, are not only relevant to land policy and urban planning but are also important elements of
social security policy. Land use planners and policymakers have a huge impact on spaces of poverty and the well-being of
the poor. How can we better understand the relationship between land policy and social security policy? In recent years, global
discourses on sustainable development, the Millennium Development Goals or universal human rights increasingly have
considered the relationship between land rights and poverty alleviation. The paper will discuss how China framed social security
policy with respect to housing, tenure security, urban and rural ownership, improvement of slums, the land rights of women and
access to common land. Does the country directly or indirectly link land security to social security policy? In conclusion, the
paper will discuss how land security could be contained into the minimum social assistance policy and what the approaching
path is in China. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
key wordscompensation for land expropriation; pro-poor land policy; minimum social assistance; social security policy
Agricultural land conversion in the process of urbanisation and industrialisation is a common pheno menon
worldwide. The notion that the State has the power to acquire agricultural land (private or public) in the public
interest, and subject to the payment of compensation, is almost universally accepted, not only in theory but also
in practice (Larbi et al., 2004). Unlike the way of developed marketed economies, where the compensation for land
expropriation is mainly based on the real estate market value standard and where livelihood security is easy to
implement, there is no market price, in many developing countries including China, which well ref‌lects the changes
in land value after expropriation. The protection of rights in the process of enforced conversion of agricultural land
has been described in a large number of literatures as a compulsory purchase, an expropriation or acquisition, in the
context of which the issue of a social security system for land-expropriated peasants is the bone of contention.
Scholars mostly think highly of the land policy, which includes state and local interventions; however, the
importance of land ownership for social security policy, especially the social security policy, varies depending
on whether countries are un-industrialised or post-industrialised. As for the former, just like in non-OECD
countries, many current studies focus on specif‌ic measures: to investigate formal and informal land use and to make
access to land as basic social security (Ikejiofor, 2006; Mooya and Cloete, 2007), increasing the legal security of
land (Deininger and Songqing, 2006; Payne, 2004, 2002; Khemro and Payne, 2004; Porio and Crisol, 2004),
housing (Leckie, 2003), land issues (Ho and Spoor, 2006, Miceli et al., 2002; Sikor, 2006), land allocation and
consolidation (Gould, 2006; Lin, 2005; Niroula and Thapa, 2005). With Hernando de Sotos trace (de Soto,
2000), there is still a debate on formal property rights on land and capital formation. The content may be a
market-oriented approach to build theories of property (Alchian and Demsetz, 1973; Coase, 1990; Cooter and
*Correspondence to: Y.-F. Yang, School of Public Administration, Southwest Jiaotong University, China. E-mail:
public administration and development
Public Admin. Dev. 32, 385401 (2012)
Published online in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pad.1615
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Ulen, 2004). The World Bank also stresses the property security as a land policy aspect of the poverty reduction
(Deininger and Jin, 2003). Meanwhile, privatisation and the strengthening of private property rights may not only
be the whole story but also subject to criticism (Platteau, 1996; Unruh, 2002; Gould et al., 2006; Sjaastad and
Cousins, 2008; Bromley, 2008). As for the latter, just like in OECD countries, the poverty and social security issues
are usually taking a minor role in land policy and vice versa. Therefore, most of the people at and below the poverty
line are excluded from the land property. The focus here is on the acquisition of assets (Behring and Helbrecht,
2002), as well as on the planned interventions with utilitarian objectives for the bourgeois (Buitelaar, 2007,
2004; Evans, 2004; Needham, 2006; Lai, 2005; Webster and Lai 2003). In their words, a land policy problem here
arises only under the condition that the state intervenes the property rights of private.
Meanings of land
Land policy is the decisions and actions of policymakers concerning the use of land, which means the land is
useful. But how useful it is? Does land policy promote the protection of property rights? And will it be useful
on well-crafted real estate investment trusts, or does land policy support land as a barrier against our neighbours?
Depending on the uses of land existing in our mind that, land has numerous meanings; so in different ways, land is
useful and valuable.
Land is not just the soil of the Earth but a social construction, which helps stakeholders imagine land in widely
different fashions. A government agency, for example, often considers land as a territory and space of power. A
real estate developer may consider the same piece of land as a commodity and space of economic exchange and
development. A peasant considers the land as source of her livelihood, as her home and place of identity.
Moreover, social constructions of land as environment also emphasise the moral perspectives of existence. In order
to be successful, land policy has to respond to these different voices and different rationalities.
Minimal access to land
In OECD countries, particularly in Western welfare states, social security is founded upon f‌inancial assistance and
public spending. Land reformers, such as Henry George or Adolf Damaschke, had to yield to the effectiveness of
public spending. In these countries, social policymakers hardly mention the access to land. In non-OECD countries,
however, social security is often closely related to land rights. The fundamental difference towards the use of land
and social security between tenure security and communal property in pastures and forests, which are vital
elements of the civic minimum, is one of the starting points. Three groups of interrelated questions are examined:
(1) Global distribution: Is there a global consensus that minimal land rights are guaranteed to every natural person
as a human right, presumably under Article 11 ICESCR?
(2) The Social: How does land policy contribute to social security? What strategies do the global stakeholders
use to communicate about the social policy goals respectfully with the minimal land rights? In which contexts
do global discourses on pro-poor land policy put issues of private and common property in land, environmental
protection, poverty reduction, or social security?
(3) Global diffusion: How do global actors contribute to the worldwide diffusion of social rights to minimal access
to land? Are there any common goals and instruments emerging in global discourses on pro-poor land policy?
Pro-poor land policy in global discourse
Tentatively, I def‌ine pro-poor land policy as the content of global, regional, and domestic discourses on land policy,
poverty reduction, and the civic minimum. For example, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, in its
2008 Review of implementation on land, gives a clear statement together with the elements of land policy, social
security policy, and environmental policy:
386 Y.-F. YANG
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Public Admin. Dev. 32, 385401 (2012)
DOI: 10.1002/pad

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