Migration and discrimination in China's urban labour market
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 19:39 authored by Haining Wang
The massive population migration since the 1980s has been one of the most significant socio-economic transformations in the history of People's Republic of China. The floating population, especially those moving from countryside to cities, has contributed considerably to China's social and economic development over the past three decades. However, in China's urban labour market, migrants have been treated differently from urban local residents in various aspects because of their rural or non-local household registration (hukou) status. The migration process and labour market differentials between urban locals and migrant workers have drawn considerable attention from both Chinese and international research communities. Nevertheless, the understanding of migrants' destination selectivity and the discrimination against migrants in employment, earnings and welfare entitlements and benefits has remained far from adequate. This thesis aims to investigate the effect of regional divergence in socio-economic development on migrants' destination selectivity and the contribution of discrimination against migrant workers to the occupational attainment differentials, wage distribution differentials and welfare entitlements and benefits differentials. Based on an integrated theory of migration that synthesises the relevant elements from the neoclassical approach, the new economics of labour migration and the structural approach, this research investigates the effect of regional divergence in socio-economic development on migrants' choice of destination to developed coastal cities, such as Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai rather than other cities. The results show that migrants' destination selectivity is affected by both the regional divergence in socio-economic development and the institutional barriers that generated the segmented labour market. The hukou system and the resulting segmented urban labour market continue to function in social and labour stratifications, which may render ineffective some push-pull factors in migration process or may run contrary to the conventional wisdom. Migration has accelerated rather than reduced regional inequality. The hukou system and segmented urban labour market not only have a significant effect on China's internal migration but also result in severe discrimination against migrant workers in the urban labour market. Based on an extended analytical framework that considers both the segregation between urban locals and rural migrants and the segregation between locals and non-locals, this study examines the extent to which the discrimination against migrants contributes to occupational attainment differentials, wage distribution differentials and welfare entitlements and benefits differentials between urban locals and migrant workers. The decomposition results indicate that the discrimination against migrant workers contributes to a large proportion of labour market differentials not only in earnings but also in access to employment and welfare entitlements and benefits. The extent of discrimination against urban migrants compared with urban locals is generally greater than the extent of discrimination against rural migrants compared with urban migrants, which suggests that the segmentation of the urban labour market is currently dominated by the segregation between locals and non-locals rather than the segregation between urban locals and rural migrants which was the case in the era of the planned economic system. The contribution of this thesis is to empirically extend the application of migration theory, discrimination theory and segmented labour market theory to urban migrants in a transitional society. The results of this study contribute a better understanding of China's internal migration and a clear characterization of the labour market experience of migrant workers, which could provide evidences and recommendations for the reform of hukou system and urban labour market.