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Coping with the Urban Environment? Gender Disadvantage, Social Inequalities and Well-being of Economic Migrants in China

Sabu PadmadasJane Falkingham, Bohua Li, Min Qin, James Brown, Zhiwei Wu, Zhenzhen Zheng, Nyovani Madise.

This project was funded under the ESRC’s Pathfinder Research Programme on ‘Collaborative Analysis of Microdata Resources-China/South Africa’ and conducted in collaboration with the China Population and Development Research Centre, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Nanjing University.


Project summary

The aim of this project is to undertake a quantitative investigation of the extent of social inequalities determining the quality of life of economic migrants in China, emphasising the female disadvantage in migration and living conditions in the urban environment.In the last few decades, since moving towards a liberalised market economy, China has experienced unprecedented economic growth. But these developments have also triggered considerable population and environmental challenges in cities and urban areas, exacerbated by mass movement of economic migrants from rural areas. Recent trends in rural-urban flows show an emerging pattern of feminisation of migration in China, prompted by the availability of cheap labour and increasing demand for a female workforce in service sectors, construction sites, manufacturing industries and household service jobs in big cities. The vast majority of women who migrate from rural areas lack proper skills and education and end up in poorly paid menial jobs and forced labour in big cities. Their living conditions are usually constrained in big cities due to poor access to housing, health and education. Diversity in demographic and health behaviours within the migrant population has not been not systematically investigated. This is critical in China where the scale of rural-urban migration is substantial. Using micro data from three recent population surveys, this project investigates the socioeconomic and gender inequalities within different migrant groups and the associated impact on health behaviours and wellbeing.


Project activities

Date Activity Description
9 November 2012 International Symposium on Migration, Economic and Social Development in Modern China, University of Southampton. The event was jointly organised by the Confucius Institute, CPC and GHP3. It involved panel discussions chaired by Professor Jane Falkingham and Dr Sabu Padmadas.
10-12 September 2012 BSPS conference 2012 - special session, University of Nottingham. Special session organised by Dr Sabu Padmadas, with presentations from the project team.
4-6 September 2012 ESRC Pathfinder project joint workshop, De Vere New Place, Southampton. Meeting organised by both Pathfinder project teams to share research and discuss further development.
30 March - 1 April 2012 ESRC Pathfinder Research Programme Research Methods Training Workshop, China Population & Developent Research Centre (CPDRC), Beijing. Workshop introducing participants to some approaches for analysing types of longitudinal data covering both the timing of events and repeated measurement of an outcome. Lecturers included Sabu Padmadas, Jackie Wahba and James Brown.
28-29 March 2012 ESRC Pathfinder project meeting, Beijing. Project meeting with Pathfinders team to discuss and plan the project.



Please see the ESRC website for more information on this project.


Media activities

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