rightChina is now experiencing the largest mass migration of people from the countryside to the city in history. An estimated 500 million Chinese — a number larger than the entire European Union and six times the number of people who emigrated to America from Europe over a century — have left the countryside and migrated to the cities of China in recent decades. About 13 million new people join the legions every year. In the late 2000s the number of migrants was expected to surpass 300 million in 2025 but it reached almost double that number in 2020.

China’s migrant workers make up more than half of China's urban workforce and account for more than half of the country's GDP. Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, “Known derisively as “waidi ren,” or outsiders, the migrants are the cut-rate muscle that makes it eminently affordable for better-off Chinese to dine out, hire full-time nannies and ride new subway lines in places like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. According to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics, more than one-third of the capital’s 19.6 million residents are migrants from China’s rural hinterland, a figure that has grown by about 6 million just since 2000. “The middle class hates to see that kind of poverty, but they can’t live without their cheap labor,” said Kam Wing Chan, a professor at the University of Washington who studies China’s rural-migrant policies. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times August 29, 2011]

The China Economic Review reported: “These workers have spilled into urban centers from provinces near and far, peddling fruit and vegetables, powering factories and — beam by beam — raising some of the world's greatest skylines. But they don't take part in the life of the cities they build, instead living on the fringes of society and increasingly, the hard, industrial edges of conurbations like Shanghai. [Source: China Economic Review, May 19, 2014 \^/]

Most migrant workers have traditionally gone to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and the coastal cities but more are heading to the interior where new opportunities are opening up and there is less competition. In some cities, the migrants almost outnumber the residents. The small industrial city of Yiwu, for example, in Zhejiang Province, is home to 640,000 official residents and a migrant population of several hundred thousand. Up until recently the booming cities have been desperate for cheap labor while the countryside has experienced labor surpluses. The cities provide so much work they are sometimes called “factories without chimneys.”

Although they are a source of great social upheaval in the villages and cities migrant workers keep villages going that might otherwise die by providing relatives back home with money and they keep cities going by providing the cheap labor that fuels economic growth.Some have described the migration of workers in China as the largest peacetime movement of humanity ever, dwarfing the Irish and Italian migrations to America (the entire Irish migration to America between 1820 and 1930 was around 4.5 million people) and the fleeing of refugees from places like Afghanistan and Kosovo.

China’s Floating Population

Of major concern in China is its growing “floating population” (liudong renkou), a large number of people moving from the countryside to the city, from developed economic areas to underdeveloped areas, and from the central and western regions to the eastern coastal region, as a result of fast-paced reform-era economic development and modern agricultural practices that have reduced the need for a large agricultural labor force. Although residency requirements have been relaxed to a degree, the floating population is not officially permitted to reside permanently in the receiving towns and cities. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006 ]

The "floating population" is defined as people who live apart from their domicile as defined by China’s stringent hukou or household registration system. So many migrants leave their homes looking for work they overburden the rail system. In the Hunan province, 52 people were trampled to death in the late 1990s when 10,000 migrants were herded onto a freight train. To stem the flow of migrants, officials in Hunan and Sichuan have placed restrictions on the use of trains and buses by rural people.

Many migrant workers are farmers and farm workers made obsolete by modern farming practices and factory workers who have been laid off from inefficient state-run factories. They include men and women and couples with children. Men often get construction jobs while women work in cheap-labor factories. Most come from Sichuan, Hunan, Henan, Anhui and Jiangxi Provinces. A 60- year-old grandmother from Sichuan who was as laborer on a construction site in Shanghai told the Los Angeles Times, “If you’re willing to work, you can get a job here even is you’re old.”

The migration is all the more extraordinary when one considers that the government has tried to restrict it. One young girl told National Geographic, “All the young people leave our village. I’m not going back. Many can’t even afford a bus ticket and hitchhike to Beijing." Overall, the Chinese government has tacitly supported migration as means of providing labor for factories and construction sites and for the long term goals of transforming China from a rural-based economy to a urban-based one. Some inland cities have started providing migrants with social security, including pensions and other insurance.

China’s Floating Population Reaches Nearly 500 Million People

According to the 2020 census in China, the number of people who didn't live where they were registered stood at 492.76 million, up 88.52 percent from 2010, accounting for roughly a third of the entire population. [Source: Ryan Woo and Raju Gopalakrishnan, Reuters, May 11, 2021

According to China’s 2020 census and the National Bureau of Statistics of China: The population who lived in places other than their household registration but still in the same city totaled 116.94 million and the floating population — people that lived outside their home city or area — numbered 375.82 million. Of the floating population, the population moving to other provinces reached 124.84 million. Compared with 2010, the population who lived in places other than their household registration areas went up by 88.52 percent, the population who lived in places other than their household registration but still in the same city up by 192.66 percent, and the floating population up by 69.73 percent. China’s continued economic and social development has facilitated the population migration and mobility, the trends of which have become increasingly evident, and the size of floating population has further grown. [Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China, May 11, 2021]

According to 2010 census figures China's migrant population was 221 million, or 16.5 percent of all citizens at that time. A government report issued in 2011 said more than 100 million more farmers would move to urban areas over the next decade. In 2006 it was estimated that China was experiencing a –0.39 per 1,000 population net migration rate. Between 2000 and 2010 an estimated 116 million people from China's hinterlands migrated to the booming coastal cities in the hope of finding better lives.

History of Human Migrations in China

As early as 1994, it was estimated that China had a surplus of approximately 200 million agricultural workers, and the number was expected to increase to 300 million in the early twenty-first century and to expand even further into the long-term future. It was reported in 2005 that the floating population had increased from 70 million in 1993 to 140 million in 2003, thus exceeding 10 percent of the national population and accounting for 30 percent of all rural laborers. According to the 2000 national census, population flow inside a province accounted for 65 percent of the total while that crossing provincial boundaries accounted for 35 percent. Young and middle-aged people account for the vast majority of this floating population; those between 15 and 35 years of age account for more than 70 percent. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Mass migrations of people in China is nothing new. In 1899, Arthur Henderson Smith wrote in “Village Life in China”: “It is not in times of special stress only that families are parted. In several of the provinces of China a considerable proportion of the adult males earn their living at great distances from home.Myriads of Chinese from the northern portion of China get such a livelihood as they can in Manchuria or elsewhere beyond the Great Wall, hundreds or thousands of miles from home, to which multitudes never return. Innumerable Chinese mothers never learn what has become of their sons, who went away in early youth to be heard of no more. Communication is irregular and uncertain, and uniformly untrustworthy. No wonder the current adage declares that when the son has gone a thousand miles the mother grieves.The Chinese Enoch1 Arden perhaps returns from an absence of possibly ten or it may be twenty years, enters his house, throws down his bundle and without a question or a greeting to any one, proceeds to take a solacing smoke. He may have been away so long that no one recognizes him, and perhaps he is taken for a tramp and warned off. But he merely replies “Why should I not make myself at home in my own house?” and resumes his smoking, leaving details to be filled in later. [Source: “Village Life in China” by Arthur Henderson Smith, Fleming H. Revell Company,1899, The Project Gutenberg]

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: “After the 1950s there was a steady migration of Chinese to growing industrial areas in outlying regions such as Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai, which at times has resulted in ethnic tensions and violence. In addition, there has been increased movement to urban areas since the late 1970s; urban dwellers outnumbered rural ones for the first time in 2011. Millions of workers who migrated from rural areas since the late 1990s were unable to obtain permanent jobs or government services in the cities because of the restrictions of the residency registration system, often called hukou. In 2001, under pressure from businesses, the government announced a gradual reform of the hukou system, but most aspects of it remain in place. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”:“During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, more than 60 million students, officials, peasant migrants, and unemployed were sent "down to the countryside" in a gigantic rustication movement.” Among other things “the the goals of this program were to settle borderlands for economic and defense reasons, and, as has been the policy since the 1940s, to increase the proportion of Han Chinese in ethnic minority areas. Another purpose of this migration policy was to relieve urban shortages of food, housing, and services, and to reduce future urban population growth by removing large numbers of those 16-30 years of age. However, most relocated youths eventually returned to the cities. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“Efforts to stimulate "decentralized urbanization" have characterized government policy since the late 1970s. Decentralized urbanization and the related relocation of industries away from established centers has also been promoted as a way for China to absorb the increasing surplus labor of rural areas, estimated at 100 million in 2000. However, China's economic boom of the 2000s led to rapid growth of coastal provinces attracting inland rural males for construction and females to work in factories. This contrast extends to how children are perceived. Urban parents call their only child "little sun" (as in "center of the universe"), compared with rural parents, who call their child or children "left behind, " (with their grandparents, as parents travel distances for work). For rural areas another split has developed: migrant work for the young and farming for the old.

Urban Migration Patterns in China

20080225-Migrant workers China Labor Watch.jpg
Migrant workers looking for work
A significant portion of China's urban dwellers are migrant workers. A national census published in April last year showed China counted more than 221 million migrants, and a government report released months later predicted that more than 100 million farmers would move to cities by 2020.According to recent census data, about 7 million migrants live in Beijing, making up roughly a third of the city's population. The labor of Beijing’s migrant workers has been essential to building the city. People with skilled jobs such as welders on high rises get paid $280 a month.

Fang Lizhi wrote in the New York Review of Books, “Beginning in the 1980s, tens of millions of migrant workers from the countryside crowded Chinese cities to sell their labor in construction, sanitation, and other menial tasks. They were the bedrock that made Deng’s “economic miracle” possible. But under the government’s “household registry” system, they technically remained rural residents and were denied the rights of urban residents. Their children — even children born in the cities — also lacked urban registry and thus were not allowed to go to school. [Source: Fang Lizhi, New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011]

The migrant work drive began in earnest in 1992, when China’s coastal economic powerhouses found they could not grow further without the government loosening travel restrictions to attract workers from all over China. So, more personal freedom to move around China was unleashed then. Sociologists call the migration to the cities the "bright lights effect." In most cases village men head off to cities to find work, leaving their wives and children behind to raise the children and take care of their land. The men often get menial jobs and send the money back. After a man establishes himself in the city he is joined by his wife and children, then nephews and uncles and other extended family members, who in turn establish themselves and are joined by their families and extended families.

The poorest of the poor usually don't migrate to the cities or abroad, rather its people that can scrape together some extra money for the trip. Some people move to the cities to seek a better life. Other have been driven off their land as a result of soil depletion, erosion or disasters. Chinese sociologists say many families would rather brave the uncertainties and the difficulties of life in the cities than return to their rural hometowns, where opportunities are in short supply. "They're just moving from one place to another," one said. "Very, very few of them go home." These days fewer and fewer plan to return to their villages in retirement. M any younger migrants have little experience of farming, and believe their futures lie in towns. "[Urbanisation] is better than an economy without growth. But when you grow, you also have to provide services to [migrants] and not only use them as cheap labour — You need children to move with their parents to cities and you need services for the left-behind elderly," Tao Ran, an expert on rural affairs at Renmin University, told the Guardian.

Migration to the cities has been described as “the most effective way for reducing the birthrate” and improving life. The poor generally have better access to education, health care, safe water, sanitation in the cities than they would in the countryside. The World Bank has called migration “a powerful force for poverty reduction.” In 2005, 200 million migrants around the world sent home $167 billion. That is twice the size of the world’s development spending, and up from $31 billion in 1990.

Every year, during the lunar New Year, hundreds of millions workers return from China’s industrial cities to their homes in the countryside, Some have called this temporary shift in population the largest human migration in the world. See Film, Last Train Home and Lunar New Year Under Holidays

Many migrant workers — especially the younger, so-called second generation — are increasingly frustrated with the treatment they receive, and the issue has in some cases sparked violent unrest. In June 2011, three days of riots broke out in the southern province of Guangdong after rumours spread that police had beaten a street hawker to death and manhandled his pregnant wife.

Migrant Worker Trends as Revealed by the 2010 Census

According to the 2010 census, China’s "floating population" — as defined by people who live apart from their domicile as defined by China’s stringent hukou or household registration system — mushroomed from 144 million in 2000 to 261 million in 2010. Most of these are migrant workers from the heartland provinces who seek opportunities in manufacturing centers such as Guangdong and Shanghai. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief, March 10, 2011]

Between 2000 and 2010 the eastern coast’s share of the population increased by 2.41 percent to reach 37.98 percent, while that of the western and central regions declined respectively by 1.11 percent and 1.08 percent to reach 27.04 percent and 26.76 percent. With 104.30 million people, Guangdong is now the country’s most populous province. That honor used to belong to Henan. With 94.02 million people, the central province has dropped to No. 3, behind coastal Shandong, which boasts a populace of 95.79 million.

The Chinese government made a great effort to count the migrant population in the 2010 census. Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In an effort to tally China's staggering migrant population, estimated at more than 200 million, census takers are seeking to count people where they live, rather than at the homes where they have their hukous, or residency permits. Until a decade ago, people who had moved to big cities without permits could be arrested and deported. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times November 10, 2010]

Migrant Workers in China

There are more migrants workers in China than the entire workforce of the United States. The migrating laborers work for low pay, often under horrendous conditions, in factories, at construction sites, in mines and on railroads and roads. They work in restaurants, die in coal mines, make bricks, peddle bicycle to deliver coal and pick up trash. They follow jobs from city to city. One worker told the Times of London, “We do the dirtiest and hardest work and everyone despises us.”

In Beijing migrants work in factories, deliver food and online purchases, and operate all kinds of informal businesses. On the migrants in Beijing, James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic Monthly, “Country people stand out in the urban crowd. Their hands and faces are more weathered, their clothes simpler and more ragged. Often they move about town lugging unwieldy bundles of bedding and belonging wrapped in plaid-patterned woven-plastic fabric that somehow has become the standard for such purposes in poor countries around the world.”

Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in “CultureShock! China”: China’s restrictions on personal mobility have lightened considerably in recent years, but ‘floating population’ migrants still live without hukou, the residence permits that ensure access to schools, healthcare benefits, housing subsidies and other urban amenities for official residents. As a result, ‘floaters’, even those who may have lived in wealthy coastal areas for years and have relatively stable jobs, often live in shantytowns on the edge of garbage dumps and along filthy canals which provide their only running water. These are the people who sweep the streets, shine the shoes, do the dirty work on construction projects, and take the toughest ‘no one else wants them’ factory jobs in China’s boomtowns. [Source: “CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]

They tend grounds and gardens and work in office building in the cleaning crews that scrub the bathrooms and sweep the halls...Many are more educated than meets the eye. They may have been schoolteachers or nurses in their home villages, but may earn more for their families scrubbing toilets for ten months in Shanghai than they could for several years at home. Interestingly, there is also a slowly growing awareness among the floating population of their rights as workers; some of the most notorious sweatshops in Guangzhou have had to start cleaning up their acts to be able to keep attracting workers.

Individual Migrant Workers in China

Describing one migrant construction worker in Beijing, Megan K. Stack and Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Li Guangqiang is not tall, but there is a bullish solidity to his body. In repose, his features fall into a wary stillness, and his eyes narrow as if he is perpetually on the lookout for a trick. But his smile is quick, spilling unexpected relaxation over his face. When he migrated to Beijing in 1995, he planned to stay only a few years. He'd make some cash and go home. But now he's addicted, not just to the money, but to the city itself. He describes his village as unsophisticated and dull. "I'll stay in Beijing until I'm 50," he declares.” [Source: Megan K. Stack and Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2011]

The writer Wang Shan has called China's migrants "an active volcano." Most of the migrants head to cities where there are factory jobs, thousand of construction sites and large public works projects’such as the new subway in Beijing and freeways in Shanghai. Around 7 to 10 million new migrants leave their villages for the cities every year. The migrants arrive by bus and by train in the cities, with the possessions crammed into red or blue plaid nylon sacks. In the cities they live in shanty towns, dormitories or public spaces — or sometimes right on the sidewalk.

Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, “Wang Fang and her husband, Chen Shuangfu, arrived in the provincial capital, Guiyang, 10 years ago, with just 10 yuan in their pockets. Their hard, unappealing work — collecting and sorting rubbish for recycling — earns them as much as 20,000 yuan a year, compared with their 1,000 yuan income back home. But their rural hukou means they are not entitled to many services — and, since the hukou is inherited, neither are their sons. Schools do not receive extra funding for migrant pupils; many claim they are full, or charge hefty illicit fees. The couple have spent 50,000 yuan since their sons reached school age in "donations" to get them into a public school and illicit extra fees. "I can't read or write; I can't even speak standard Mandarin well. We don't want our children to be like us," says Chen. Migrant workers build China's cities, clean their homes and clear their rubbish — but other residents "call us beggars and use dirty words," added Wang. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, October 2, 2011]

Migrant Workers in Shanghai

The BBC reported: “Guo Jie, a migrant worker in Shanghai, makes a living by loading enormous stacks of polystyrene foam boxes on her bike, pedalling around Shanghai to re-sell them to wholesalers. Unwieldly, dangerous and by her own admission a bit scary, it’s a job that proves a challenge to navigate busy roads. “I haven't been home for three years”, she said. [Source: BBC April 17, 2018, video by Shanghai-based photographer and filmmaker Noah Sheldon]

Brook Larmer wrote in National Geographic, “Chen Dandan spends his days suspended hundreds of feet above downtown Shanghai, building one of the city's newest skyscrapers. What gives the 26-year-old migrant worker a sense of vertigo, though, is his daily walk home down Nanjing Road, the city's glitziest shopping street. In soiled, blue overalls and a yellow safety helmet, Chen gawks at a Gucci storefront. At a place called Tomorrow Square, he ogles a red Ferrari whose price tag equals about 80 years of his $3,500 annual income. "All these people may have money," he says, "but we are the ones who are building Shanghai." [Source: Brook Larmer, National Geographic, March 2010]

As with its former growth spurts, the city's current boom would not be possible without an influx of foreign investment — and armies of migrant workers. Of Shanghai's 20 million people, a third are migrants without residency permits and some associated benefits. Many of these waidiren — outsiders — live in well-established communities, some with their own private schools to accommodate children whose unofficial status bars them from public education. Others, like Chen, form a floating population on the lowest rung of Shanghai society.

In Shanghai's early days most migrants became part of the culture, living in lilong and learning the local dialect. Today, in an era of easy travel and communication, such assimilation is rare. Chen has worked in Shanghai for two years, but he's never considered staying permanently — and he hasn't learned a word of Shanghainese. Most of his wages go to his family in nearby Jiangsu Province.

At the end of his walk down Nanjing Road, Chen heads into the workers' "dormitory" — plywood rooms on the third floor of an unfinished high-rise. Across the street is the 22-story Park Hotel, the tallest building in Asia when it went up in the early 1930s — and a symbol of Shanghai's earlier global pretensions. It too was built by migrant labor. Chen may not be welcome in Shanghai during Expo 2010. In those six hallowed months, construction will halt, and most contract workers will be sent home. But Chen will be back. "As long as Shanghai keeps growing," he says, "it will always need people like me."

20080225-Workers take a rest China Labor Watch.jpg

Money Earned by Urban Migrants in China

Some migrants from Sichuan in Beijing earn around $50 a month sifting through garbage dumps for recyclable materials. Factory workers work 14 hour days, 7 days a week for between $40 and $120 a month (See Labor). Migrant construction laborers are paid around $1.25 a day, a wage that is pitiful by Western standards but much higher than what they can earn their home provinces. Some are promised wages of $1.72 a day but end up getting only 57 cents.

The average migrant earns $100 a month and sends about a third of it home. Families with at least one migrant worker are almost automatically lifted above the poverty level of $1 a day.

Migrants send home around $45 billion a year. Some send four fifths of their incomes to their families. This money is vital to keeping the rural economy going, allowing families to move into new, better homes, send their kids to school, and buy things like livestock, home additions, a plow or tractor, or a big-screen television. The phenomena is similar to that of migrants who go abroad to seek opportunity except that no borders are crossed. The money also helps get local and national governments skirt their responsibilities of providing villagers with social services.

Some workers do not know how much they get paid and go years without receiving any money. They work 12 hour days, seven days a week, and receive room and board in a cramped dormitory, daily rations of rice and noodles, and $12 a month in spending money, with money docked from their pay of they are sick. Some bosses arbitrarily declare work substandard and deduct money from their pay.

Often migrant workers are not paid until the job they are working on is completed or until they return to the work site after returning home for the New Year holiday. This practice is done so the worker’s don’t work for a month a then leave. But some employers abuse the arrangements and tell workers they will get paid after they work a few more weeks and repeatedly deny them their pay. There have been cases of workers working for two, three even ten years without getting paid. Even under these conditions new workers keep coming because opportunities in the villages are so limited.

Expectations among migrant workers are rising. Li Changping, a researcher and advocate for farmer’s rights, told Reuters, “These migrant workers carry expectations about building a home, getting married, having children, becoming successful, and there’s a real pressure from trying to keep up.

Chinese Migrant Workers and the Hukuo

All Chinese citizens need a carry “hukou” (residency card) to live in a city named on the card or move from one place to another. A kind of internal passport, the hukou system was implemented in 1958 to halt migration, control grain rations, and keep tabs on the masses and give rural people a connection to their land. Modern ones are imbedded with chips that have person’s name and place of birth .

A residency card is one of the most valuable documents in China. It is necessary to get an apartment and legal job in a town or city and send children to school. There are many stories of husbands and wives that are separated because the husband got a good job in a distance town and his wife couldn't secure a new hukou. Peasants migrate to cities without hukous in search of jobs and have trouble getting decent housing and places for their kids in school.

The hukou system means that migrant workers lack many of the rights that legal residents of the cities they live in have. Formal registration prevents migrant workers and their families from getting access to education and social welfare outside their home villages. The system has been widely criticized and for years officials have pledged to reform it. But despite this little has chnaged. have made little progress. [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, June 12, 2015; [Source: Benjamin Haas, The Guardian, November 26, 2017]

After the mass eviction of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Beijing in 2017, outspoken property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang criticized the hukou system as the root of the problems Beijing was trying to solve, noting that such a system was “adopted only by a limited number of countries, including China and North Korea, ” and arguing that “if China doesn’t solve the land problem and change the household registration system, all of its so-called long-term [market] mechanisms will be built on sand.” [Source: Lucas Niewenhuis, Sup China, November 30, 2017; South China Morning Post]

The hukou sytem forces many migrants to work to work without contracts or social security in seasonal or short-term jobs like construction. In 2014, Beijing promised some changes to the hukou system, with restrictions to be lifted first in small towns. More stringent requirements would remain on those who want to live in larger cities, which are generally more attractive to migrants. [Source: Chun Han Wong, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2015]

Guangdong Reforms the Hukou for Migrants

In 2015, it was revealed that 13 million Guangdong migrants could gain permanent residence by 2020. Chun Han Wong wrote in the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time: “Faced with a persistent influx of rural workers, China’s most populous province plans to allow more migrant residents to settle permanently in its cities. Under the guidelines published in July 2015, Guangdong authorities aim to grant local household registration to roughly 13 million migrant workers by 2020, allowing them to access public services — spanning housing, health-care, social security and education — that are typically reserved for urban residents.[Source: Chun Han Wong, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2015]

“Guangdong has often taken the lead in efforts to liberalize the hukou system, a pressing matter in a manufacturing hub that hosts the country’s largest transient population. Among its roughly 110 million residents, more than 24 million are migrants from other regions, while another 10.6 million have relocated within the province. “Reforming the household-registration system will speed up our province’s urbanization process, and facilitate the coordinated development of the Pearl River Delta region, ” Peng Hui, deputy director-general of Guangdong’s public security department, told a news briefing this week.

“As part of the reforms, provincial officials will aim to “equalize” the provision of public services and ensure “balanced” economic development between rural and urban areas, according to the new guidelines. Provincial officials say they plan to “fully liberalize” settlement rules in small, county-level cities and so-called “administratively designated towns, ” where migrants with legal and stable places of residence will be allowed to apply for permanent residency.

“For prefectural-level cities, hukou liberalization will be more gradual, according to the new guidelines. In certain mid-size cities, migrants seeking permanent residency must have held stable employment and participated in social-security programs for at least three years. These thresholds are set higher at five years for those applying for residency in larger cities within the Pearl River Delta industrial zone, including Dongguan, Zhongshan and Zhuhai.

“However, strict migration controls will remain in Guangdong’s largest cities, namely Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Both cities already run modest “points system” schemes that allow several thousands to acquire local hukou each year, based on criteria such as stability of employment, accommodation, social security and length of stay.

Image Sources: Beifan.com , China Labor Watch, Cgstock.com http://www.cgstock.com/china

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2021

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