Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Integration of Minority Migrant Workers in Lanzhou, China

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Integration of Minority Migrant Workers in Lanzhou, China

Article excerpt


Past research on China's migrant workers--those officially registered in agricultural households but work in the city--has shown that China's hukou system, or registration system, restricts them from obtaining city household registration, without which access to social security is limited. Little research has been done on the integration of migrant workers of minority origin. Based on a 2011 survey of 1,090 minority migrant workers in Lanzhou, a northwestern city of China, this paper examines two aspects of integration: an objective one that measures access to social security benefits, and a subjective one that gauges the belief of inequity in employment opportunity. The paper argues that integration of minority migrant workers in China involves being treated equally in basic benefits as urbanites, and such treatment affects their sense of fairness in the labour market. The findings suggest that integration of minority migrant workers involves not only cultural or economic factors, but also issues of entitlement and sense of inequality.


La recherche sur les travailleurs migrants chinois--ceux qui ont ete officiellement inscrits dans des familles d'agriculteurs, mais qui travaillaient en ville--a montre que le systeme chinois hukou, ou systeme d'enregistrement, limitait leur capacite a obtenir l'immatriculation dans des familles urbaines, indispensable pour avoir acces a la securite sociale. II y a eu peu de recherche sur l'integration de travailleurs migrants d'origine minoritaire. A partir de l'enquete de 2011 sur 1.090 d'entre eux a Lanshou, une ville du Nord de la Chine, cet article porte sur deux aspects de leur integration : l'un, objectif, mesure leur acces aux benefices de la securite sociale, l'autre, subjectif, evalue a quel point ils voient de l'iniquite dans leurs perspectives d'emploi. Nous defendons ici le fait que l'integration de travailleurs migrants appartenant a des minorites chinoises comprend le fait d'etre traite comme les autres sur la base de benefices en tant qu'urbains, et que ceci affecte leur sens d'equite dans le marche du travail. Nos conclusions donnent a penser que l'integration de ces travailleurs ne se resume pas a des facteurs culturels et economiques, mais comprend aussi des questions sur les droits et un sens de l'inegalite.


Although China does not have a sizeable migrant population coming from outside the country, China's urban areas have been populated by large numbers of migrant workers that originate from China's rural areas. The growing size of the migrant worker population since its economic reform in 1978 has been documented (Liang and Ma 2004). Researchers have also noted the marginalization of migrant workers in terms of their limited citizenship rights and restricted access to social security, despite their indispensable contributions to the rapid economic growth and urban development in China (Chan 2010; Chen 2005; Nielsen et al. 2005; Zhang and Wang 2010). China's hukou system, or household registration system, that mechanically classifies its population into rural and urban household registration with predetermined rights, creates a structural barrier for the integration of migrant workers in the city (Cheng and Selden 1994; Han 2010; Li and Li 2010; Windrow and Guha 2005). This paper examines a group of migrant workers of minority origin in the City of Lanzhou, China, to examine factors that influence two aspects of urban integration: an objective aspect on entitlements to social security and a subjective aspect on the sense of employment inequality. The main research question is to see how limited access to social security affects the sense of inclusion in the city as evidenced in respondents' perception of unequal job opportunity. This paper is based on a survey of 1,090 minority migrant workers in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China, conducted in 2011.

The National Bureau of Statistics of China (2010) classifies migrant workers as those who officially are registered as belonging to an agricultural household but who have been working as non-agricultural workers either in their local area or in regions outside their region of registration for six months or more in a year. …

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