Caught Between Rural and Urban: the Migrant Workers Urbanizing China

China's rapid urbanization has been built by a class of citizens called "nongmin," or peasants, many of which have migrated to urban areas for work but retain their legal status as residents of the countryside.

A recent article by David M. Barreda describes the plight of rural migrant workers in China—a "uniquely Chinese social identity" of citizens no longer working in agriculture but who retain legal status as nongmin ("peasants"). In fact, "[of] China’s 263 million 'peasant laborers' more than 60% are migrant workers, living in cities but legal residents of the countryside."

Migrant workers are an essential driver of the ongoing urbanization of China (17.7 percent of the country's 263 million migrant workers are employed in construction), but they are not permitted to stay. Permanent urban residency requires a "hukou," or certificate of urban residency.

Barreda's article is full of infographics illustrating the realities of life for migrant workers, including many challenges related to planning and land use. Government-provided affordable housing, for instance, accommodates only 0.2% of rural migrants.

Full Story: The ‘Nongmin’ Breakdown


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