Academic journal article Health and Social Work

The Functions of Social Support in the Mental Health of Male and Female Migrant Workers in China

Academic journal article Health and Social Work

The Functions of Social Support in the Mental Health of Male and Female Migrant Workers in China

Article excerpt

According to Gazette of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of China (State Council, 2004), the number of migrant workers in the major cities of China exceeded 98 million in 2003. K. H. Zhang and Song (2003) suggested that between 1979 and 1999, the urban population increased by as many as 222 million people, with more than 10 million people moving to the cities every year. Most migrant workers come from the western and central areas of China, such as Sichuan, Henan, Anhui, Hunan, and Jinagxi provinces, and go to the eastern coastal areas, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Fujian provinces. The driving forces behind the rural-urban migration in China include urban-rural income disparity (K. H. Zhang & Song, 2003); surplus labor in agriculture (Koberts, 2000); introduction of the Household Responsibility System in agricultural reform, which has led to the development of township and village enterprises in the countryside (Iredale, Bilik, Sue, Guo, & Hoy, 2001); the disintegration of state-owned enterprises; the emergence of private enterprises and a modernized market economy (Iredale et al., 2001); and policies in some poorer provinces that favor out-migration (Iredale et al., 2001). (Under the Household Responsibility Sytem, although all farmland is still owned by the government, the production and management of the farmland are entrusted to individual households through long-term contracts. During the contract period, the farmers pay taxes to the states and the local governments and keep all the other proceeds for themselves. Not only has the system greatly inspired farmers' production initiative and increased agricultural output, but it has released a large amount of rural labor force from land cultivation.)

The transactional model of stress and coping developed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984) posited that an individual's mental health outcome is influenced by a dynamic interaction among stressors, cognitive appraisal, and coping found in the person. In the migration literature, although there is still a lack of consensus about the specific factors that operate to influence adjustment outcomes (Searle & Ward, 1990), three sets of factors are often placed in this framework: (1) migration stress, (2) intervening factors, and (3) psychological and sociocultural outcomes. The present study adopted a stress and coping framework to examine the relationships among migration stress, mental health, and social support in migrant workers in Shanghai, China. Particularly, it attempted to investigate the mediating and moderating roles played by social support in the relationship between migration stressors and mental health of the migrant workers. The findings provide information on the types of migration stress and the functions of social support in migrant workers in Shanghai, China.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Migration Stress

During the settlement period, migration stress is a potential risk factor that can increase the likelihood of poor mental health outcomes. In China, because of the Hukou system (the household registration system), migrant workers and their families who were not born in the cities cannot register as official residents and therefore are not entitled to subsidized housing, education, social security, or medical benefits. In particular, they do not have the government-required social security premium that is supposed to be paid by employers (Tan, 2000) and thus do not have health insurance or pension plans (Feng, Zuo, & Ruan, 2002). Studies also suggest that they tend to live in poorly sanitized and usually overcrowded dormitories that are provided by their employers or in shared accommodation (J. F. Shen & Huang, 2003); take up physically demanding jobs, such as manual labor, factory work, or jobs in the service sector (Roberts, 2000); and are paid a very low wage (Tan, 2000). In this study, migration stress is defined as the stress that results from exposure to difficulties in handling such survival issues as finding employment, financial problems, feelings of loss, cultural differences, and unmet high expectations when settling in Shanghai. …

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