Rural Urban Migration and Policy Intervention in China - Migrant Workers' Coping Strategies

Dr Li Sun will be presenting 'Rural Urban Migration and Policy Intervention in China - Migrant Workers' Coping Strategies' as part of the Sociology and Social Policy (SSP) seminar series.

Abstract:  As a result of the rapid industrialization and urbanization of China, according to the latest figures some 281 million farmers migrate from impoverished rural areas to prosperous urban regions seeking off-farm employment. They are referred to as migrant workers in China. In order to facilitate their migration, a series of policies have been introduced by the Chinese central government in recent years, which make China one of only ten countries in the world have policies to increase rural to urban migration.  Four rural-urban migration policies in China are studied in this research: the skills training program, wage payment protection, work-related injury insurance, and health insurance program, which target four corresponding events during migrant workers’ migration trajectories: job-seeking; wage exploitation; work injuries; and illness.

In the face of these events, migrant workers either choose to make a claim under these policies, or use other strategies in order to cope with it. I classify migrant workers’ coping into three types based on the various coping strategies they employ: firstly, administrative coping for which making a claim under government policy is the main coping strategy; secondly, political coping which main coping strategy is taking political action; and thirdly, social coping for which adopting informal strategy is the main coping strategy (e.g. utilizing social networks).   

This research aims to explain how migrant workers cope with events in the context of migration policies. Through semi-structured interviews, it is found that Chinese migrant workers face a broad range of heterogeneous problems which they choose to cope with by adopting diverse coping strategies. Generally speaking, comparing to administrative coping, social coping is more prevalent among migrant workers, meanwhile, political coping is an emerging coping strategy in Chinese society. In the context of various migration policies, migrant workers’ coping behaviors reveal the effectiveness of the policies to some extent. Due to the prevalence of social coping instead of administrative coping, it is reasonable to argue that most of these migration policies fail to the achieve desired outcomes by and large. Therefore, there is still a long way to go and much to do in order to ensure Chinese migrant workers benefit from migration polices.

Location Details

Room 12.21 and 12.25
Social Sciences Building 
University of Leeds

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