China’s unprecedented economic growth in recent decades can largely be attributed to millions of migrant labourers that made China the ‘world’s factory’. It is well documented, however, that migrant labourers experience discrimination in the labour market. Despite China’s phenomenal economic growth, few studies have investigated whether the working conditions of low-skilled migrants have improved. In this study, we ask: in the past two decades, have disparities in working conditions and earnings between low-skilled rural-to-urban migrant workers and their urban counterparts decreased? We contrast the working conditions and earnings between migrants and urban residents who lack a high school degree and age 18–55 years using panel data, the China Health and Nutrition Survey (1993–2015), and individual fixed effects models to account for selection problems. Findings indicate that over a span of twenty years migrants and urban residents had similar trends in employment and earned incomes, but migrants’ weekly working hours and tendency to work more than legal work hours increased more than urban residents’. Working longer without earning more suggests persistent social inequality in Chinese society in general and deeper injustice among migrant workers.
Bibliographical noteThis work was supported by Contemporary China Research Cluster, Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong: [Postdoctoral Fellow Scheme]; Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China: [Grant Number CRF C5010-15G]; The University of Hong Kong: [Seed Funding for Basic Research].
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- working conditions
- work hours
- Low-skilled migrant workers
- Working conditions
- Work hours