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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Li Sun



Making a Claim or Not - Migrant Workers' Coping Strategies under Policy Intervention in China

As a result of the rapid industrialization and urbanization of China, according to the latest figures some 242 million farmers migrate from impoverished rural areas to prosperous urban regions seeking off-farm employment. They are referred to as migrant workers in China. A series of migration policies have been introduced by the Chinese central government in recent years, which make China one of only ten countries to have policies to increase rural to urban migration in the world. This research aims to explore in the context of migration policies, how Chinese migrant workers cope with events during their migration.

This dissertation has three main findings: 1. Migrations policies in China have different intended effects on migrant workers, which provide the basis on which I categorize them into three form of policy intervention: educational intervention, legal intervention, and economic intervention, showing China has set up a comprehensive arrangement of measures to shape migration. 2. Chinese migrant workers face a broad range of heterogeneous problems which they choose to cope with by adopting diverse coping strategies, and I identify these different strategies into a typology of "coping" which includes institutional coping, political coping and social coping. 3. Migrant workers' coping strategy varies under different forms of policy intervention: many migrant workers take up institutional coping under policies of economic intervention; they often adopt social coping under policies of legal intervention; and under educational intervention, a large percentage of migrant workers prefer to adopt social coping rather than participating in the government program, which indicates that social networks substitute the government's function in the case of education intervention.

Based on the findings, this research has three academic significances: it employs the policy intervention theory to examine policies in China; asserts individuals' coping as a social action and identifies a typology for studying coping in Chinese society; and proposes a conceptual framework from a macro-micro perspective and launches the novel angle of impact studies to policy analysis in China as policy is not only delivering its measures but also shapes the everyday life of the target population. In addition, this research is essential for internal migration policies studies across the world, since it not only adds to the lacking literature on internal migration policy studies, but also has wide implications for other developing countries. Besides the contributions to academia, as an empirical study of rural-urban migration policies, this research has a policy-improving function since it offers constructive insights to policymakers.


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