Table of Contents

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Elgar original reference

Edited by Misa Izuhara

Dramatic socio-economic transformations over the last two decades have brought social policy and social welfare issues to prominence in many East Asian societies. Since the 1990s and in response to national as well as global pressure, there have been substantial developments and reforms in social policy in the region but the development paths have been uneven. Until recently, comparative analysis of East Asian social policy tends to have focused on the established welfare state of Japan and the emerging welfare regimes of four ‘Tiger Economies’. Much of the recent debate indeed preceded China’s re-emergence onto the world economy. In this context, this Handbook brings China more fully into the contemporary social policy debates in East Asia. Organised around five themes from welfare state developments, to theories and methodologies, to current social policy issues, the Handbook presents original research from leading specialists in the fields, and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy.

Chapter 19: From apartheid to semi-citizenship: Chinese migrant workers and their challenge to social policy

Linda Wong

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, development studies, asian development, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


The dramatic rise in rural-to-urban migration is a major outcome of China’s economic reforms. Before the 1980s Chinese society was rigidly divided into urban dwellers and rural residents, and migration was strictly forbidden. A few years after the rural reforms began in 1978 peasant migrants were estimated at 20 million (1982). In 1990 the estimate went up to 64 million and then to 80 million in 1995 (Ma and Xiang, 1998). By the time of the fifth national census (2000), peasants who had lived in places other than the towns of their household registration for more than six months exceeded 90 million. The latest census (2010) counted 221.4 million such persons, a stunning increase of 81 per cent (State Statistical Bureau, 2011) over one decade. This means that, out of the 665.6 million persons found living in urban areas, migrants made up one-third. Such a size and rate of migration are phenomenal in world history. The impact of migration into cities has been profound. Sociologically, the large influxes have created a new social stratum in Chinese society, making obsolete the dual-class division that came into being after 1949.

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