Accepted paper:

Aspirations, Family support and State Discourses: Female migration in Contemporary China


Jialing Luo (Sichuan University )

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the successful experiences of the Chinese female migrant workers against the backdrop of China's massive rural-urban migration. It offers insights into the ways in which they achieve upward mobility beyond theoretical frameworks of autonomous female migration and women's agency.

Paper long abstract:

The scale of China's rural-urban migration in the post-Mao era is unprecedented in human history. While the total number of international migrants was estimated to be approximately 272 million in 2019 by the United Nations, the number of migrant workers in China reached about 288 million in 2018 according to the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics. Of which, the female migrant workers amounted to 34.8%. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Chengdu, the metropolis of southwest China, where a large number of female migrant workers concentrate, this paper is concerned with the increasingly heterogeneous urban experiences of female migrant workers, and the ways in which some of them manage to achieve upward mobility during their migrating process. Those female migrants are found to share similar aspirations, in the sense of what Appadurai (2004) notes as "the capacity to aspireā€¦as a cultural capacity, especially among the poor". However, beyond what can be described as autonomous female migration and women's agency, many female migrants spoke of the importance of family support and challenges and opportunities brought about by shifting state discourses. Female migration in China can be compared to female migration in the EU in the context of neoliberal globalisation, as well as to rural urban migration during the Industrial Revolution in 19th century England. Female migration in China is better understood when viewed as part of a changing, globalising world.

panel P071
Facts, myths and multi-realities on female migration