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Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China Term Paper


Background Information

The issue of rural migrant worker is one of the most crucial concerns in the contemporary Chinese setting. Essentially, a rural migrant worker is an individual who is originally registered in the rural area, but has migrated to an urban area to work. The number of the rural migrant workers has attained alarming levels.

In particular, the number of the rural migrant workers has been seen to rise as shown in this table.

Year Estimated Population of the Rural Migrant Workers
1989 30 Million
1993 60 Million
2006 120 Million
2010 158.63 Million
2012 163 Million
Estimation to 2025 Additional 243 Million

Table 1: The data on rural migrants’ population (Bosker 47)

According to the above statistics, it is evident that the population of rural migrant workers is increasing rapidly. Between 1989 and 1993, the population doubled from 30 million to 60 million. This implies that the population increased at a rate of 100% within a period of five years.

Although, the rate of increase between 1993 and 2006 decreased, the total number of the migrants was substantial. Understandably, the rapid increase and the expected projection in 2025, raises a question of whether China has distributed its opportunities and wealth evenly.

This question is necessitated by the fact that the migration prevails due to search for employment. As such, this paper will discuss the issue of rural migrant workers, associated problems, and the policies that can be stipulated to solve those challenges.

Problem Identified

The rural migrant workers face social, environmental, and financial problems in china due to the conservative system. Indeed, the challenges faced by this section of the population are completely unacceptable. First, the employment areas set aside for the rural migrant workers are inspired by discrimination.

In this case, the residents from urban areas are absorbed in the manufacturing industry and distribution functions (Huang 98). On the other hand, the rural migrant workers are employed in the construction areas as well as the service provision entities. This implies that most of the rural migrant workers get casual employment which is both risky and temporary in nature.

In addition, it is evident that this section of the working population is allocated physically-demanding jobs. In fact, some of the industries are known for the high risk they pose to the employees in the process of working. These industries include the textile companies, mining sites and garment manufacturing among others.

From a critical perspective, these types of jobs indicate that the rural migrant workers go for the jobs that the local urban residents avoid. This is also an indication that the employers and the authorities absorb the local residents more readily as compared to the rural migrants. In addition to working in risky and physically demanding areas, the working conditions for the rural immigrants are also pathetic.

Due to the fact that most of the rural migrant workers in China are illiterate, the level of employment mobility is very low. The lack of mobility emerges because they can only compete for the jobs with fewer technicalities. Whereas the lack of technical skills prevails, the employees have little understanding of their basic human rights and employment legalities.

As such, their employees take advantage of their illiteracy to exploit them physically and financially. For example, some of the employers and contractors withhold the employees’ wages in order to delay the payment. This is used as a deliberate technique to prevent them from leaving the job and fighting for their rights. In some cases, employers release a part of the salary and then release the remaining part when the year ends (Richardson 56).

Extreme cases require employees to contribute some capital before employment. This ensures they will not move from the company easily or choose other jobs freely. While the employers are keen to withhold the salaries, they still do not give them good salaries. They consider these migrants as providers of cheap labor.

Despite the low salaries and payment delays, the companies do not pay social security fees to cater for hospital and other social expenses. In particular, a survey conducted in 2003 indicated that only 14 percent of the rural migrant workers had health insurance. In addition, it was discovered that only 10 percent had secured a pension plan for retirement.

On the other hand, about 79 percent of the local urban residents had a health insurance cover an 91 percent were enjoying the pension plan. As such, it cannot be disputed that the employers are inconsiderate and bully when it comes to treating the employees.

Second, education qualification and emphasis among the rural migrant workers are very low and poor. Xinhua News Agency indicated that the migrants’ children drop out at a rate of 9.5 every year. Besides, the agency discovered that those who go to school consistently are beyond the average school age.

A percentage of 6.9 of the children’s population have never been admitted to any school during their period of stay in the urban area. The data concerning access to education for different residents is as shown in this table.

The data concerning access to education for different residents

The academic challenge is highly inherent to the Hukou system. The system allows the local children, who are registered in the urban areas, to study in public schools for 9 years (Whyte 83). On the other hand, the rural urban migrants are needed to pay a fee ranging from three thousands to thirty thousands in order to study in government school.

Essentially, however, most of the private schools available in these cities are cheaper than the public ones. Nonetheless, these privately owned schools do not provide proficient and quality education to the students. In most cases, they do not have well-qualified teachers or enough resources to facilitate learning.

As a result, it becomes a double blow for the rural migrant workers. in response to this problem, the central government stipulated a policy which ordered the local schools to stop charging additional fees. While this policy was stipulated and released by the government, the local governments have remained reluctant to implement it.

One of the best examples in regard to this situation is the Baoshan District which is found in Shanghai. In terms of policy, the authorities in this district purports that the children will be admitted in public schools freely. However, it complicates the policy to an extent that the parents are practically unable to take their children to school.

In particular, the authorities require parent to meet four different conditions in order to get their children admitted. These conditions are outline in this list.

  1. The parents must submit a certificate of temporary residence.
  2. The parent must provide a certificate of employment as a proof of the working status. This certificate is usually provided by the destination’s bureau of labor.
  3. They must then present a certificate of studentship from the area of origin.
  4. The parents must produce a valid document of identification which granted by the police department of the original area of residence. Obtaining these certificates might require the worker to make a fees ranging between two hundred and three hundred Yuan.
  5. The rural migrant workers are required to have a permanent location in the destination.
  6. They might seek to reside in the district for a period amounting to one year or more.
  7. Lastly, the workers are needed to have worked in the district for a continuous period of half a year (Young 76).

Evidently, it is clear that this process is costly, involving, and tedious to undergo and complete successfully. In a study conducted by Xinhua News Agency, it was discovered that only twenty to thirty percent can afford to undertake the process successfully.

It is, therefore, a clear indication that the local government of Baoshan is not willing to allow easy access to public schools. It puts obstacles in order to discourage the parents and students from pursuing their education for free. This is one of the critical issues that should be solved through the stipulation of considerate and far-reaching policies in order to ensure that all migrants access education.

Besides the education and employment problems, the Hukou system presents a different residential problem to the rural migrant workers. In this regard, the Hukou system registers people in accordance to their original residence. As a result, the rural migrant workers are registered under the rural residence.

This implies that they are not recognized as residences of the urban areas where they move to seek employment. The residents, who are registered under the urban areas, are entitles to buy houses at reduced prices. On the contrary, the rural urban migrants are not provided with the opportunity to buy the houses at the subsidized prices.

The authorities argue that the responsibility to provide housing for the rural migrants lie with their respective government. In addition to this, the available houses in urban parts of China are not many in comparison to the population. Consequently, those apartments and houses that are available are charged highly.

In average, most of them are about 1000 Yuan per month. This is a very high price for the rural urban migrants who earn very low. As a result, they opt to live in the dormitories provided by the companies and employers. This is pathetic housing situation due to various reasons. First, living in common rooms is very undesirable since most of the migrants live with their families.

Second, the employers do not make efforts to provide good sanitation and enough space because they understand that the employees do not have any other options. In other words, the employers are aware of the employees’ inability to get good houses in the cities. As such, they do not bother to improve the condition of the houses.

Lastly, the high prices prevent the workers to have permanent house ownership despite the fact that they earn. Consequently, the rural migrant workers live in the cities for years, but they end up without housing. In fact, some of the people who are considered as rural migrants were born in the cities.

Nonetheless, they cannot be integrated in the system because their parents were from the rural areas. Due to that rural-migrant status of their parents, they are also classified as rural migrant workers. Evidently, this is a very oppressive and inconsiderate housing system which exhibit lack of flexibility and retrogressive approach.

Lastly, the rural immigrant workers are discriminated and despised by the local residences in the city. Indeed, it cannot be disputed that the local residents do not respect the workers in any material way. This is based on the fact that the housing system has classified the rural immigrants as non-local.

Despite the rural immigrant workers playing a fundamentally vital role in the development and the progress of the urban areas, the local residents consider themselves superior. The media display the rural immigrants negatively based on their low literacy levels and poor living conditions.

As such, the media does not portray the god work which has been supported and tackled by the rural immigrants especially when it comes to the construction and building industry. Importantly, the local consider the rural immigrants as the major employment competitors.

The local residents therefore put efforts to humiliate and intimidate them in order to make the living conditions difficult. In light of this intimidation, the local media and residents link the rural immigrants to vices such as social instabilities and the crimes. The worst perception that the local residents have created towards the rural migrants is related to the ignorant status of the migrants.

The locals create an impression that the illiteracy among the rural immigrants is the sole driver of their misfortune. This is a false implication that the rural immigrants incur challenges which they have created for themselves. With this perception, the locals view the rural migrants as intruders who bring instability, crime and competition.

These unfair perspectives increase oral disrespect, despise and calculated avoidance. Essentially, it is evident that the government and the public have substantially disregarded the usefulness of the migrants. Their dignity has been churned in terms of the social and financial aspects.

Causes of the Problems Identified

There are various reasons that cause the academic, social, and financial problems identified in paragraph 2.0. First, the major cause of these problems is the inflexibility of the housing system. The housing system has been linked and connected to all aspects of the migrants’ lives. It has an impact in the employment, residence, and education.

In particular, the housing system does not easily accommodate migration of people from one area to another. As a result, the migrants are not recognized in the urban setting. In the housing system, they are considered and registered in their respective places of origin.

This implies that the destinations’ local governments do not recognize them. When planning for the provision of services, the urban governments only consider those people who have been registered under the urban residence. On the other hand, they disregard the migrants because such people are registered under their respective rural areas.

Disregarding the immigrants has therefore evoked other related problems including academic marginalization and employment biasness. In this case, the immigrants cannot access the public schools and quality education because they are charged extra fees. Although the national government has prevented the schools from charging more fees, the local governments do not enforce the regulation effectively.

In a similar scenario, the same housing system leads to the marginalization of the immigrants when it comes to employment. The locals get better jobs while the immigrants are left to go for the physically-demanding jobs which are lowly paid. As such, the inflexible housing system is actually the major challenge when it comes to the issues of marginalization, lack of god employment conditions and poor housing.

In case the government is intending to restore dignity for the migrants, it has to address the issue of the Hukou Housing System. The second major cause of the problems identified in the previous paragraph is the deficiency of human rights orientation. Evidently, the local governments tend to prioritize development-oriented policies and disregard the promotion of human rights.

This implies that the governments do not promote equal access to education for all people living in the country regardless of where they belong. If the authorities were willing to make changes in the system to accommodate the rural migrants, the problems would have been solved conclusively. However, the lack of this human rights ideological support contributes highly to the existence of these problems.

The other cause of these problems is the deficient unity among the people of China. It is evident that the urban locals view their colleague citizens as competitors and instigators of crime in the cities. This leads to a situation whereby the citizens come from one country but they lead two different forms of lives.

In particular, the migrants live in pathetic poverty while the locals enjoy developmental privileges that have been highly promoted by the efforts of the migrants. The media has also instigated these problems by portraying the migrants as illiterate, instigators of social instability and propagators of criminal acts in the cities. The negative media perspective has provided the moral authority for the locals to disrespect and despise the migrants.

Possible Solution and Policy Proposition

Essentially, it was evident that there are policies which have been stipulated to ensure equity in education and the financial system. However, these policies have not been implemented effectively by the local government. As a result, stipulating policies is not enough to discourage the disregard and mistreatments directed towards the migrants.

This implies that the urban setting must first change their attitude and mentality when dealing with the rural migrants. They should not treat them as competitors when it comes to employment. Instead, they should view and treat them as colleague citizens. They should remember that, although the migrants come from the rural areas, they belong to the same country.

In addition, this should be understood by the local governments. Besides the ideological change of mindset, the local and central governments should learn to work together in order to confront this challenge. In paragraph 2.0, it was indicated evidently that the central government stipulates policies that are not implemented by the local governments effectively.

A good example of this scenario is the Baoshan district which was found to put obstacles in the process of education access. When this is done, the players should come up with a policy that ensures the equity of citizens. In particular, the central and local governments should tailor a policy that enables the transfer of money from one area to another.

As a result, when a person migrates from a rural area to an urban area, his or her funds are transferred to the destination government. As such, the migrants can easily access public services.

Works Cited

Bosker, Maarten. Relaxing Hukou with Increased Labor Mobility and China’s Economic Geography. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 2010. Print.

Huang, Xiaoming. The Institutional Dynamics of China’s Great Transformation. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon [England: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Richardson, Sophie. Promises An Assessment of China’s National Human Rights Action Plan. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, 2011. Print.

Whyte, Martin King. One Country with Two Societies on Rural-urban Inequality in Contemporary China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2010. Print.

Young, Jason. China’s Hukou System Markets, Migrants and Institutional Change. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, December 24). Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/marginalization-of-rural-migrant-workers-in-china/

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"Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China." IvyPanda, 24 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/marginalization-of-rural-migrant-workers-in-china/.

1. IvyPanda. "Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/marginalization-of-rural-migrant-workers-in-china/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/marginalization-of-rural-migrant-workers-in-china/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Marginalization of Rural Migrant Workers in China'. 24 December.

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