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Labor Migration & Urbanization in China

Labor Migration & Urbanization in China

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Labor Migration & Urbanization in China

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  1. Labor Migration & Urbanization in China

  2. Who makes Apple’s products? • Foxconn • QUANTAS • Inventec • Compal • Etc… • Original Design Manufacturers • An original design manufacturer (ODM) is a company which designs and manufactures a product which is specified and eventually branded by another firm for sale. (Per Wikipedia)

  3. First Foxconn plant in mainland China, established in Shenzhen in 1988

  4. Foxconn’s new plants (built within the last two years) Foxconn’s first plant in China

  5. The big picture • In 1990, about 75% of China’s population still lived in rural areas. • As of 2010, this had changed to an urban-rural proportion of about 50-50. • During the period of China’s Reform and Openingbetween 150 and 250 millionmoved from the countryside into the cities (these are hard numbers to pin down precisely). • In 1980, China had 51 cities with half a million or more people; between 1980 and 1995, another 50 were added to this category and, between 1995 and 2010, 134 additional cities in China grew beyond half a million.

  6. If current trends hold… • China's urban population will hit the one billion mark by 2030. • By 2025, China will have 219 cities with more than one million inhabitants and 24 cities with more than five million people. • This will include TEN cities similar in size to, or larger than, New York (i.e. megacities)

  7. The hukou system & China’s urban-rural divide • The household registration certificate, or hukou, designates every Chinese citizen as either urban or rural. • Hukou system established in the late 1950s, giving urban hukou holders important advantages. • During China’s disastrous famine in the late 1950s / early 1960s, over 90% of famine deaths were in the countryside. • Enforcement of the system relaxed significantly after the late 1970s, but it has not gone away.

  8. The hukou today • The limits on mobility have mostly disappeared; the limits on rights and access to services have not. • A rural hukou holder living and working in a city cannot access healthcare, education or the social security system. • The lack of education access for migrants’ children means they usually have to leave them behind. • Or, enroll them in a limited number of schools for migrant children, generally regarded as much lower quality.

  9. “As long as enterprises supply them with a place to stay and food, the mingong [migrant workers] do not stop working even if they are not paid. If they stop working, they do not eat.”

  10. Changing urban spaces • Labor migration is changing the human and built landscape of China’s cities • Populations in some cities are dominated by new arrivals. For example, nearly 80% of Shenzhen’s population consists of migrant workers.

  11. Built by migrants: Shanghai’s Pudong New Area – all built after 1993

  12. “in fact we the migrant workers are also human beings, we are proud, all of the high-rise buildings are built up with our blood and sweat” - metal worker in Sanya, Hainan

  13. Changing rural spaces

  14. The annual trip home • China has more than 130 million migrant workers • That’s about 10% of the population • Most get just one chance a year to return home during the Chinese New Year


  16. Land appropriation • Much of China’s urban expansion is taking place on land that was recently farmland • City developers are constantly hungry for new land on which to build • Rural people pushed to give up their farmland are often compensated… but at very low rates. Many of them do not want to leave • Land appropriation is an ongoing point of tension within Chinese society • Common forms of resistance: nail houses, self immolation, demonstrations

  17. The changing landscape of migration and urbanization • Hukou reform efforts • The geographic spread of development • Workers gaining leverage

  18. Hukou reform • An official effort to remove the economic and social distinctions between China’s urban and rural populations • Chengdu and Chongqing have both obtained special permission from the central government to experiment with hukou reform • Progress limited so far – it’s a complicated system to undo

  19. Spatial changes in development • The Great Western Development strategy, launched in 2000, aims to address regional inequality • Large scale investments in infrastructure over the last decade • Some inland cities are starting to catch up • In 2005 Intel Corp set up its first factory in Chengdu; in 2009 the company moved a major plant operation from Shanghai to Chengdu • In 2008 Hewlett-Packard (HP) decided to set up a large-scale operation in Chongqing, now producing for both international and domestic markets • There are many other examples (Cisco, IBM, Meineke, Dell)

  20. A significant amount of China’s urban development is now happening in its western interior

  21. And labor asserting its rights

  22. Takeaway points: • Migrations and urbanization are major forces reshaping China today; although distinct processes, they go hand-in-hand, and also directly link to developments in the world economy. • The lives of china's migrant workers are dramatically affected by the long standing urban-rural divide, institutionalized through the hukou system. They typically have very little access to rights and services, especially in contrast to official urbanites. • China's economic geography is changing, with dramatic developments in inland areas. This is changing the distribution of both the labor migration and the urbanization phenomenon. • A new generate of migrant workers are becoming more aware of their rights and choices and more assertive about exercising them.