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Promoting migrant workers'urban integration

By Yue Zhongshan and Li Shuzhuo | 2013-08-01 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
Chinese cities witness a steady influx of migrant workers
 
For nearly three decades, Chinese cities have seen a steady influx of migrant workers. Gradually, recent arrivals of younger migrants are displacing the many from the previous generation that relocated to cities with the country’s initial urbanization following reform and opening-up. In spite of the dramatic changes China has undergone within the span of a generation, these recent immigrants’ experience of social integration bears many parallels to that of their older counterparts. It can be divided into three dimensions: cultural integration, socio-economic integration, and psychological integration.
 
As a category, cultural integration encompasses everything from changes in language and vernacular, emotional expression, daily routines, and clothing style, to values and cultural norms. Migrant workers face a two-part dilemma when integrating with the cultural mores of their new urban environment: firstly, to what degree do they seek to maintain the customs and habits of their hometown or region; secondly, to what degree do they wish to assimilate to the modern industrial culture of their present environment? Based on divergent attitudes and behaviors of migrants, four different strategies for cultural integration are possible: a strategy of integration, in which migrants attempt to maintain rural cultural practices while simultaneously adapting to new urban practices; a strategy of assimilation, in which migrants decide to completely abandon their native cultural tendencies and embrace wholesale assimilation into urban cultural; a strategy of separation, in which migrants ignore the culture of their new surroundings and simply try to preserve the practices of their village; lastly, a strategy of isolation, in which migrants both reject the culture of their hometown but also do not attempt to assimilate to urban culture.
 
Socio-economic integration is narrower in definition, and refers to the process of migrant works gradually achieving salaries and socio-economic status on par with that of native urbanites. 
 
Lastly, psychological integration is the process of migrant workers developing a sense of belonging and community in the city. As with cultural integration, migrants face both having to maintain a sense of identity as members of a rural community and establish a social identity as members of the urban populace.
 
From the above analysis, we can summarize the process of migrant workers’ social integration with the sentence: “In urban society, the cultural, socioeconomic, and psychological differences between migrant workers and urban citizens diminish gradually.” This sentence also indicates that this process is driven not only by the migrants themselves, but by the urban citizens as well. Mitigating the rural-urban gap manifest in today’s cities requires the participation of both migrant workers and native city-dwellers. 
 
 
 
Yue Zhongshan, Li Shuzhuo: IESSR, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Xi’an Jiaotong University; Institute of Population and Development Research, School of Public Policy and Management, Xi’an Jiaotong University
 
The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No.380, Nov.16, 2012
                                                                                                                         
Translated by  Zhang Mengying