The new generation of migrant workers in urban China



Publication Details

Cheng, Z. (2014). The new generation of migrant workers in urban China. Urban China in the New Era : Market Reforms, Current State, and the Road Forward (pp. 125-153). Germany: Springer.


After three decades of contributing to the Chinese economy and society, the first generation of rural-to-urban migrant workers is being replaced by a new generation in the urban labour market. The study aims to better depict the nature of the cohort, and thus promotes a better understanding of this group. This study presents a different portrait of migrant workers from previous research because getting urban jobs and wage income has become a means to embrace urban life for new-generation migrant workers, rather than the sole or major purpose of migration. In contrast to their predecessors, these new migrant workers are younger, better educated, less connected to the countryside, and have a broad urban dream. This study draws on original data from interviews of migrant workers, employers, managers and government officials, comparing the two generations and examining their living and working conditions and aspirations in the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong province. They are in difficulties and confusion caused by a long-standing rural-urban divide, thwarted by institutional barriers and market forces. Investments in rural human capital development, in addition to institutional reform, are needed to address their concerns.

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