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Are the migrant workers competing with locals in China's urban labour market?

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  1. The composition of what we call ''migrants''
  2. The labor market's segmentation in cities
  3. The different natures of jobs and their benefits
  4. The categories made by Cindy C. Fan in Guangzhou

At the end of the 1970s, the Communist Party of China (CPC) acknowledged that planned economy had not managed to increase the Chinese standards of living. Consequently, it started to reform the economic system in order to modernize it. The labor market was also not been excluded from such reforms. They were aimed at transforming the state-distribution system into a market regulated one according to the principles of a market economy. Before the reform concerning the labor market took place in 1978, job distribution was completely determined by the Household Regulation System or hukou system. The hukou system was first introduced by Mao Zedong in 1958. Essentially, it divided the Chinese population into two categories: ''agricultural'' and ''non-agricultural'' (i.e. urbans). However, in the late 1970s, the super-production in agriculture resulted in the opening of Chinese borders to foreign enterprises, and the transition to a market economy triggered a strong need for workforce in urban China. On the contrary, the workforce was too important in the rural areas.

[...] All these simultaneous effects fuel the idea that migrants are indeed competing with the locals in the labor market. In conclusion, if the urbans have the feeling that migrants are stealing their jobs, this is not confirmed by scholars' studies. Despite an impressive migration to the Chinese cities after the hukou system and economic reforms, the majority of migrants are temporary migrants. They are allowed to stay and work in the city, but they are allocated low-paid, low- skilled jobs, and do not enjoy the State subsidies concerning housing, health care, education and food. [...]


[...] There are two ways for getting a local hukou (Fan, 2000): firstly, working for the State and being assigned a job in another city which implies that one already had an urban hukou. Or, less common, being rewarded a local urban hukou because of one's education or skills, and thus changing one's rural hukou to an urban one. Therefore, in a city, it is possible to categorise the population into three broad types: the nonmigrants or locals, the permanent migrants and the temporary migrants. [...]

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