chapter  5
15 Pages

Migrants’ job-search in urban China: social networks and the labour market


Migration to cities for job opportunities is an important means of pursuing a better life in many developing countries. In China, self-initiated migration was strictly controlled by the government through the household registration (hukou) system during the central planning era (1958-78). Since the initiation of the economic reforms in 1978, over 100 million people have moved to cities in search of higher living standards. Despite the relaxation of migration controls, the overwhelming majority of migrants have been denied access to welfare and services at their destinations, such as unemployment benefi ts and minimum living allowance (Chan 2009 ). Jobs are therefore crucial for migrants to survive in cities. However, as newcomers, migrants may fi nd it diffi cult to secure decent jobs due to lack of knowledge about the local labour market. Previous studies have focused on migrants’ working conditions, showing that migrants are concentrated in lowskilled jobs with low levels of pay, and that they have become a signifi cant group of the urban poor (Knight and Song 2005 ; Xu et al. 2006 ). Yet, very few studies have examined migrants’ ways of fi nding jobs and the extent to which their search methods infl uence labour market outcomes.