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Reviewed by:
  • Migration and Social Protection in China
  • Peter Yang (bio)
Ingrid Nielsen and Russell Smyth, editors. Migration and Social Protection in China. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2008. x, 265 pp. Hardcover $69.00, isbn 978-981-279-049-1.

This volume is a collection of twelve essays that critically examine a unique major social phenomenon in the transformation of a fast growing China—rural-to-urban migrant workers and their social protection. Contributors to this volume, academics specializing on this topic in China and abroad, scrutinized carefully the existing social security programs and arrangements and proposals for improved social security coverage for these migrant workers.

China's economic boom has attracted an estimated 120–200 million young people from the countryside to cities for work. Despite the important role these internal immigrants play as the engine driving the country's rapid economic growth, little or no effort has been made to provide a social security regime for them until recently. The uniqueness of China's internal migration manifests itself in the chilling fact that although these rural migrant workers can work and live in the cities, they are discriminated against by employers and society. They lack any [End Page 556] social security net because they lack a city hukou, a residence permit similar to a green card for living and working in the city. The ultimate social security net for them is to return to their home villages. The recent U.S. and world financial and economic crisis made the pressing social needs of these young women and men even more obvious. The urgent and current significance of the issues related to this topic makes this well-researched publication a major addition to the existing literature on this topic.

Chapter 1 introduces a general picture of the issues concerning China's migrant workers and the essays in this edition. The authors of this chapter—who are also the authors of the concluding chapter 12 and the editors of the volume—first provide an overview of the migrant workers' social, work, and living conditions, and the Chinese government's recent reform agenda related to improving their conditions. Then, they introduce each of the eleven other chapters in four major subjects: social protection and social justice, and migrant participation in social protection schemes; the role of the household; state and market in providing social protection; and future directions.

Chapter 2 deals with the dilemmas the migrant workers face working and living in the cities without legal citizen status. It also analyzes the implications of these dilemmas, not only for these people themselves, but also for China's social stability, sustained growth, and competitive advantages in the international markets. This analysis is of great importance for China, especially when its economy is forced to move from low-cost manufacturing into higher value-added production.

Chapter 3 examines the significant gap between the rhetoric of social justice and the implementation of reforms aimed at improving the social conditions of migrant workers. The authors of the chapter compare the main arguments present in policy reforms against realities as recorded in the 2004 report paper by Institute of Labor Science researchers. The authors acknowledge the reform agenda of the Chinese government, but also point out that regulations are enforced only in an intermittent manner. Furthermore, the improvements are extremely limited.

Chapter 4 compares the individual strengths and weaknesses of three social security models designed for rural migrant workers. The integrated urban social insurance model in Beijing, Guangdong, and part of Jiangsu is simple to administer, but too costly to be attractive to low-wage migrant workers. It is virtually impossible to expect it to have a high participation rate of migrant workers. The social insurance model specifically designed for migrant workers is suited for this population, but complex to administer. The dedicated rural model integrated with rural social insurance is also suited to the needs of migrant workers, but only feasible in developed rural industrialization areas such as Jiangsu Province near Shanghai.

Chapters 5 through 11 offer case studies exploring the participation of migrant workers in various social security programs. These studies find much lower levels of participation with migrant workers than with urban...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 556-559
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-13
Open Access
No
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