Highly mobile migrants pose mounting challenge

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Shanghai Daily, September 16, 2010
Adjust font size:

Each year before the Chinese Spring Festival, train stations in major cities nationwide witness an extraordinary picture of human migration when people return home to see their families in the underdeveloped countryside.

Unable to enjoy the same benefits, such as health care and education as urban residents, and due to the higher cost of living, it is almost impossible for these migrant workers to settle down in the cities where they work.

After the festival, most of the migrant workers choose to return to big cities again where jobs are provided, whereas their rural home towns, lacking industries, cannot offer them a chance to make better money. Thus, there's a highly mobile population in China today.

This phenomenon is described as "shallow urbanization," or incomplete urbanization by Chinese experts attending a recent forum. China faces an enormous challenge of integrating this mobile group of people living in cities.

Government figures show about 47 percent of Chinese people, or 622 million people, now live in cities and towns, but almost 200 million are immigrants, or people from other parts of the country, said Zuo Xuejin, executive vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Another 400 million people from rural China will migrate to cities in the coming 20 years, Zuo said at a forum held last Friday in Shaoxing City of Zhejiang Province.

Experts attending the two-day forum, held in conjunction with the Shanghai World Expo, discussed the pressing need to transform the nation's economy and balance urban-rural development. Eric Maskin, professor of social science at Princeton University, a Nobel laureate in economics in 2007, said China's fast economic growth has produced income inequality, especially between cities and the countryside.

Peter Ramsden, a leading urban and regional planner from London, said the UK capital was remarkable city; 30 percent of its 7 million population are foreign-born and another 30 percent from ethnic minorities. Ramsden said tolerance and openness were needed to help the social integration of different groups.

Key policies for integration mean improving migrants' access to employment and key services such as health, housing and education, recognition of their qualifications and providing vocational training.

He also advised the government of China to make a long-term commitment toward integration and especially to invest more in the education of the second and third generations of migrants, as more education may help this weaker group finally integrate into the cities.

"What we lack is not resources, but caring and sharing for the poor," said Antonio P. Meloto, chairman of Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation in the Philippines. The foundation builds integrated, holistic and sustainable communities in slums in the Philippines and other developing countries.

It is the spirit of "bayanihan," the willing sharing of any heavy load for the good of mankind, Meloto said.

Perhaps this is just what cities are going to need to build better lives for people, as the Shanghai Expo theme of "Better City, Better Life" has promoted.

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comments

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter