Unemployment among the Migrant Population in Chinese Cities: Case Study of Beijing

Type Conference Paper - Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Association for Chinese Economic Studies Australia (ACESA)
Title Unemployment among the Migrant Population in Chinese Cities: Case Study of Beijing
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robyn_Iredale/publication/228379087_Unemployment_among_the_migr​ant_population_in_Chinese_cities_Case_study_of_Beijing/links/0046351662077a3368000000.pdf
The increasing number of migrants moving to cities, especially from rural areas, has
posed a new set of issues for the authorities. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that
China had a floating population or temporary migrants of up to 110 million people
(Solinger, 1999) and this figure was expected to rise in the future. The majority of
migrants are in the prime labor force participation age range and they have taken up
positions in the ‘3 D’ (demanding, dirty and dangerous) occupations which are
unattractive to local residents. Most studies so far have been concerned with the
economic impacts of migrants on sending and receiving regions. A number of studies
have analyzed the characteristics of migrants and the occupational structure of
migrants (Yang and Guo, 1996; Yang, 1996; Goldstein and Goldstein, 1991, Wang,
Zuo, and Ruan, 2002) while other studies have focused on the spatial distribution of China’s internal migration (Fan, 1999; Chan, 1994). Studies about China’s internal
migration, particularly from rural to urban migration, have shown that
underemployment in agricultural sectors was one of the major contributing factors to
migration to cities (Yang, 1991; Guo, 1996; Taylor, 1988; Solinger, 1995, 1999). A
recent study of rural migrants in Shanghai (Wang, Zuo, and Ruan, 2002) has revealed
that there is a clear division between rural migrant workers and local residents in
terms of industrial and occupational composition, living conditions, and income and
benefits. Rural migrant workers are far from being integrated into urban Chinese
However, very few studies have looked at unemployment problems among the
migrant population. The common perception about migrant populations in Chinese
cities is that they are economically active and the unemployment rate is low. Even
studies of unemployment in China have not touched this issue. With massive
industrial restructuring in recent years, more and more attention has focused on urban
unemployment, which normally refers to urban workers who were previously
employed by state or collective run enterprises. Unemployment among migrant
populations in cities, particularly unemployment of migrants with rural backgrounds,
has not attracted attention from researchers and policy makers alike.
This paper on Beijing, using data from the 1997 Beijing Migrant Census and
qualitative material from fieldwork, attempts to examine:
• the rate of unemployment among the migrant population;
• characteristics of unemployed migrants; and
• the invisibility of unemployment and the policy responses.

Related studies