China’s Rural-Urban Migration: The Structure and Gender Attributes of the Floating Rural Labor Force


  • Guifen Luo


China, rural-urban migration, female migration


This article focuses on Chinese female rural migrant workers. Based on the survey
data collected in Anhui and Sichuan provinces of China, the article investigates gender
aspects of Chinese rural-urban migrants in the context of the household migration
Results of the examination indicate that the rapid economic development that
China is undergoing makes it possible for rural women to go from traditional villages
to modern and post-modern cities and gain employment in urban areas and VTEs
(village and township enterprises). The young, unmarried, and well-educated rural
women are much more likely to migrate or to get off-farm jobs, and the occupations
held by these rural female workers are more varied. There are gender features among
the rural-urban migrant workers. The proportion of the returnees among married
women is much higher than that of their male counterparts. Income also differs between
female and male laborers. While the proportion of women in the lower income group
is higher than men, the proportion of female workers in the higher income groups is
lower. The lack of social security for rural residents proves to be a highly signi? cant
institutional barrier for rural women to access the new opportunities offered by a more
open economy and the modernization process.
On a more general level, the results of the study suggest that market-oriented
economic reform brought about diverse effects on Chinese women in terms of labor
market status. Though the institutional barriers put Chinese female rural workers in
a position of disadvantage, the performance of female rural-urban migrant workers
suggests that they are active beings rather than passive victims merely adapting to the
social transformation. Female rural-urban migrant workers have been and still are
playing important and speci? c roles at the crossover between the emerging capitalist
economy and the traditional rural society. In doing so they are positive participants
of globalization in a wider development perspective.




How to Cite

Luo, G. (2006). China’s Rural-Urban Migration: The Structure and Gender Attributes of the Floating Rural Labor Force. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, 42, 65–92.