Rural-to-rural working migration in China

Panel organised by: Karsten Giese (GIGA Institute of Asian Studies, Hamburg)

Panel description

Since the beginning of the reform era in China in the late 1970s research on internal migration has concentrated on rural-to-urban migration. Rural-to-rural migration has largely been neglected, and research in rural areas mainly addressed the left behind populations of minors and elderly persons, or non-mobile peasants’ livelihoods. However, every year hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of rural Chinese – small scale peasants and agricultural laborers alike – engage in seasonal or longer term working migration for employment in agricultural production elsewhere within China. Small plots, remote location and lack of economic integration in the sending areas and specialized economies of scale in destination areas have created push and pull for particular forms of spatial mobility linking inland provinces and remote areas with centers of large scale or specialized agricultural production for instance in Xinjiang. It seems that these rural-to-rural and agriculture-to-agriculture migrants are the losers of Chinese agricultural reforms, since they are unable to leave agricultural production for other economic sectors and have to seek (temporal) agricultural employment in other regions of China.

This panel seeks to shed some light on this largely under-researched topic and thus invites contributions from various disciplinary backgrounds ranging from single case studies to structural analyses. The main questions that shall be tackled are: Who is migrating from rural areas and agriculture to agricultural employment in other areas of China? Where do rural-to-rural migrants come from and where are they going, temporarily or more permanently? What drives this rural-to-rural migration and which perspectives are ahead with regard to mechanization? Why are they unable or unwilling to engage in other economic sector than agricultural production?

Paper proposal

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