Tag Archives: rural and urban migrants

Shopping in an urban village

Electrical equipment shop in an urban village, Elosua Miguel

An electrical equipment shop in an urban village in Kunming, Yunnan. Urban villages are informal settlements that have proliferated in many Chinese cities (for other articles on urban villages click here:  http://urbachina.hypotheses.org/5981). Although usually described by officials as dirty and insalubrious, urban villages are not slums, or at least not the ones the writer of this article has visited. However, it’s difficult to define these informal settlements as homogeneous living communities for their location and construction vary considerably. In many cases, original villagers construct five to six stories buildings (it seems it is the maximum height recommended to avoid having to install an elevator) with a few facilities. Sometimes, the urban village preserves its original layout, thus keeping some resemblance to a rural settlement in the midst of urban structures.

Urban villages are often lively neighbourhoods, with a buoyant service trade for residents and outsiders lured by the affordable prices. They can play an important role in helping migrants integrate into urban life. Some Chinese scholars (see for example Wu Fulong) advocate protecting these villages and supporting the informal market. It is interesting to note that the original villagers (farmers transformed into landlords) turn the double property system to their advantage and make good profits renting out rooms and retail space. (This is not the case of this shop, which is still run by the original resident.) The paradox here is that had farmers the right to sell their homesteads (which they do not), they could exploit the inherent value of land and profit from it. As a consequence, the urban village would probably be dismantled, making way for new residential or commercial developments, and its residents, migrant workers for the most part, would be forced to look for affordable housing in places far away from the city centre.

Urban village 4 (chengzhongcun - 城中村), Elosua Miguel

Therefore, until governments make urban social housing policies for migrant workers more flexible, it seems desirable to preserve urban villages and acknowledge their role in providing affordable housing in a somewhat integrative community. The government could introduce regulations regarding safety and hygiene issues to guarantee an acceptable standard of living, as well as levying business taxes on rental activities that could then be returned to the village in the form of basic services.


Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Employment and wages of migrant workers

Cheng, Z., Guo, F., Hugo, G. & Yuan, X. (2013). Employment and wage discrimination in the Chinese cities : A comparative study of migrants and locals. Habitat International, 39, 246-255. DOI: 10.1016/j.habitatint.2012.11.007

The urban labour market in China has been institutionally segmented, partly due to the hukou (household registration) system, in which rural-to-urban migrants have been discriminated against. However, the analytical framework in the literature that is based on the rural-urban divide fails to capture the diverse nature of the urban floating population, in which the urban-to-urban migrant segment is a growing proportion. This paper considers this regional divide, based on the dichotomy of migrants and locals, and examines the discrimination experienced alongside the rural-urban divide. By using original survey data collected from four megacities, this study analyses and compares employment attainments and wage differentials between rural migrants, urban migrants and urban locals. The results demonstrate the existence of the dual divides, and show that, compared with urban locals, rural migrants suffer employment and wage discrimination, while urban migrants suffer only employment discrimination.

Full text available on line (restricted access)

Zhao, Zhong; Qu, Zhaopeng (2013). Wage inequality of Chinese rural-urban migrants between 2002 and 2007. PEP Working Papers, 4, 37 p.

The paper studies the levels and changes in wage inequality among Chinese rural-urban migrants from 2002 to 2007. We use the Chinese Household Income Project dataset and the Rural to Urban Migration in China dataset to construct a unique dataset that allows us to document changing wage inequality among migrants and among urban natives between 2002 and 2007. We find that wage inequality among migrants decreased significantly between 2002 and 2007, whereas it increased among urban natives during the same period. Our results show that the high-wage migrants experienced slower wage growth than middle- and low-wage migrants, a primary cause of declining inequality among migrants. We used distributional decomposition methods, and find that the overall between-group effect (coefficient effect) dominates in the whole wage distribution of the migrants, which means that the change in returns to the characteristics (education and experience) play a key role, but on the upper tails of the wage distribution, the within group effect (residual price effect) dominates which implies that the unobservable factors or institutional barriers do not favor the migrants at the top tail of the wage distribution.

Full text available online on AgEcon Search

Wang, Huashu; Pan, Lei; Heerink, Nico (2013). Working conditions and job satisfaction of China’s new generation of migrant workers : evidence from an inland city. IZA Discussion Paper, 7405, 31 p.

China is experiencing notable changes in rural-urban migration. Young, more educated migrants with different attitudes towards living and working form an increasing share of the migrant labour force. At the same time, the destinations of migrants are changing as a result of government policies and the global financial crisis. More migrants than before find jobs in medium and small size cities, often located in western and central China. Understanding the characteristics and attitudes of the changing migrant labour force is becoming a major challenge in sustainably managing migration flows and urbanization. Little hard evidence is available on the working conditions and job attitudes of migrant workers, particularly for inland China. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the characteristics, working conditions and job attitudes of the new generation of migrants, defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s, as compared to the traditional generation in a typical medium-size city in western China. Data collected through a household survey conducted among 1,048 migrants in Guiyang City, capital of Guizhou Province, are used for this purpose. We find significant differences in occupational characteristics and working conditions between the two generations. Contrary to popular beliefs, we find that the level of job satisfaction is higher among the new generation of migrants. Using an ordered logit model to examine factors contributing to job satisfaction, we find that age and gender do not have a significant impact for young migrants, while working conditions play a major role. Among these, it is not so much the income level that matters for young migrants, but other working conditions. Using a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition, we derive that it is mainly the difference in working conditions and other endowments that explains the higher job satisfaction of young migrants, not the differences between generations in the valuations of these endowments.


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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