Volume 34 - Article 6 | Pages 175–202

Gender Inequalities in Employment and Wage-earning among Economic Migrants in Chinese Cities

By Min Qin, James Brown, Sabu S. Padmadas, Li Bohua, Qi Jianan, Jane Falkingham

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Date received:01 Nov 2014
Date published:22 Jan 2016
Word count:3924
Keywords:China, cities, economic migrants, gender, inequalities, labor market, National Migrant Survey, wage-earning


Background: Recent trends show an unprecedented feminisation of migration in China, triggered by the increasing demand for cheap labour in big cities and the availability of women in the labour market. These trends corroborate the evidence that non-agricultural work and remittance from urban labour migrants have become the major sources of rural household income.

Objective: This paper investigates the extent of gender inequalities in job participation and wage earning among internal labour migrants in China. We hypothesize that female migrants in cities are economically more disadvantaged than male migrants in the job market.

Methods: We use data from the 2010 National Migrant Dynamics Monitoring Survey conducted in 106 cities representing all 31 provinces and geographic regions. The study applies the standard Heckman two-step Probit-OLS method to model job participation and wage-earning, separately for 59,225 males and 41,546 females aged 16-59 years, adjusting for demographic and social characteristics and potential selection effects.

Results: Female migrants have much lower job-participation and wage-earning potential than male migrants. Male migrants earn 26% higher hourly wages than their female counterparts. Decomposition analysis confirms potential gender discrimination, suggesting that 88% of the gender difference in wages (or 12% of female migrant wage) is due to discriminatory treatment of female migrants in the Chinese job market. Migrants with rural hukou status have a smaller chance of participation in the job market and they earn lower wages than those with urban hukou, regardless of education advantage.

Conclusions: There is evidence of significant female disadvantage among internal labour migrants in the job market in Chinese cities. Household registration by urban and rural areas, as controlled by the hukou status, partly explains the differing job participation and wage earning among female labour migrants in urban China.

Comments: Female migrants have higher opportunity costs and family constraints to participate in job market than male migrants. Higher job participation among male migrants suggests that men face stiff competition for jobs in cities and are more likely to accept jobs with a lower wage offer.

Author's Affiliation

Min Qin - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
James Brown - University of Technology Sydney, Australia [Email]
Sabu S. Padmadas - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]
Li Bohua - China Population and Development Research Center, China [Email]
Qi Jianan - China Population and Development Research Center, China [Email]
Jane Falkingham - University of Southampton, United Kingdom [Email]

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