China’s floating population and its implications

In today’s world of globalization, it is important to understand specific opportunities and challenges that are created by constantly shifting paradigms in business, economy, IT, politics, and other spheres in different countries. People all around the world fight for human rights while working conditions and the overall social environment improved compared to the previous decade. However, when everything changes rapidly and people become happier, there are still phenomenological issues all around the world that confirm the presence of problems that were ignored in the past or missed today. One of the most popular societal problems, which is discussed by many scholars all around the world, relies on China’s demographic problems and the increasing rate of migrants without a household registration (hukou). These migrants create the stream of people that are called “floating population” because they travel all around the country without the hukou (Armstrong, 2013). Unfortunately, these people cannot enjoy privileges that are granted to citizens while it was found that migrants face problems regarding discrimination, getting education, finding well-paid work, and other issues (Armstrong, 2013). Moreover, floating population suffers from the highest rates of HIV, illiteracy, and crime in China while 73 million children are severely undereducated (Armstrong, 2013). While the problem exists, it is still a mystery why do people move from place to place and do not settle? Hence, the majority of them seek for a better living conditions while, surprisingly, the majority of them find the desired environment and start to live even better after all. That happens because the floating population is an unstable phenomenon while many individuals settle down and live at the place where the environment corresponds with their expectations. On the other side, other people become migrants and try to find a better place to live. Therefore, it is essential to view this phenomenon from different perspectives to understand how the floating population seems to thrive (getting well-paid jobs, education, health insurance, and proper housing) even without the hukou and how such tendencies affect migration rates.

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First of all, there are numerous factors that contribute to the increase in the migrants’ rates that are regulated by law or influenced by external factors such as the increase of people’s awareness regarding human rights and dignity. For example, the removal of agricultural tax, the newly released Labor Law, increased investment in education, the western China development program, and the global financial crisis affect the current stance of issues in China, creating an uneven division of resources and potential benefits in different areas of China and encouraging migrating to other places (Liang, Li & Ma, 2014). Moreover, several changes and upcoming regulations including the equality of education for both migrant and local children, adequate housing, and social welfare protection made it easier for people to make the decision to become a part of the floating population (Liang, Li & Ma, 2014). By adjusting the Labor Law, government created better working conditions for everybody, including migrants, so that people might find higher wages in cities compared to rural areas because people invest more in industrial centers. On the other side, the removal of agricultural tax benefits those who might find a better land to grow food so that some people try to settle down at the areas that provide promising opportunities for farmers. Increased investments in education and further development of the education equality encourage people to seek for a better education for their children at a lower cost. Furthermore, the financial crisis influences investments in China so that international investors try to create their facilities in China to produce goods at lower costs due to the cheap labor. However, workers might migrate to get closer to factories, for example.

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While those assumptions seem vague, it is important to consider living conditions first, to strengthen the argument. As a fact, it is thought that the lack of hukou results in the decrease in the quality of living so that people struggle to find a house or they will not have enough money to rent good apartments. However, it should be mentioned that recent studies confirmed that living conditions for migrants appeared to be the same or even better compared to urban residents (Jiang, 2006). There are numerous organizations that help migrants to settle and get everything they need for a better living which further encourages more and more people to migrate in search of a better future for their family.

Despite all these factors that influence decision-making processes regarding the migration and their benefits for the floating population, there are also “bonuses” that might further encourage the increase in migration ratio. For people from urban areas, it might be essential to find a job and they try to find a position with the highest salary. However, sometimes, people lack skills and competencies required to get a well-paid job. In these cases, the logical solution for such people is to find the place that might offer jobs for people with such skills or find the place that offers jobs for everyone. Hence, people have to know about such places so that they will not migrate blindly and without job. The corresponding phenomenon that is responsible for people seeking the desired place where employers hire specific people that have the same place of origin or skills is generally described by the term “enclave” (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Enclave workplaces consist of specific people with the same place of origin or employer’s friends (Zhang & Xie, 2013). In the majority of cases, rich people that open their business somewhere out of the place of their origin hire their friends or people with the same place of origin (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Such phenomenon is classifies as a discrimination, but it favors the floating population the most. For example, employers will promote a person with the same background who supports the same values rather than a high-skilled local worker (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Moreover, employers offer higher wages to their friends from their hometown (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Higher wages do not mean that the payment will increase after all, but more people from their hometown will get higher positions so that the average payment per person will increase for floating population representatives compared to local residents (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Hence, some people that try to apply in enclave firms might not have required skills or knowledge, but the floating population mainly aims to find any job after all so that any employment might be classified as a success (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Despite these facts, it is crucial to mention that human capital that has acquired essential knowledge prior to migration, which includes education, language, and other skills, might be discounted in the host society while some might even find the way to benefit from the constantly changing environment by learning new things (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Hence, the adaptation period usually refers to immigrants that work for enclave firms because local businesses might not want to hire people without the needed knowledge of language, for example (Zhang & Xie, 2013). However, when these people pass the adaptation period, they might further migrate to nearby areas to find a better job that requires higher skills or get promoted on the current workplace (Zhang & Xie, 2013). Over the top of these facts, a floating population representative might feel more comfortable working and communicating with people of the same origin and the existence of such discrimination might further encourage others to try their luck and move to another place because it might be easier to thrive with a well-paid job.

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Another factor that affects the floating population rate, which is usually overseen, relies on health insurance while such coverage might influence medical costs and welfare. While 95 % of the China’s population enjoy benefits of the healthcare coverage, it is essential to mention that floating population has a lower percentage of the health insurance backup (Zhao et al., 2014). As a fact, health insurance is required to reduce healthcare costs in case of emergency while a lower paycheck or free services might increase the overall satisfaction rate of citizens. Unfortunately, such benefits are limited so that only people with the hukou can have a proper health insurance due to its ties with the residence and temporary place of living (Zhao et al., 2014). Floating population does not meet these requirements so that the remaining 5 % of the China’s population that are not covered mainly depend on the floating population rate. While some people might have the hukou in urban or rural areas, benefits are not easily transmitted to another area of residence (Zhao et al., 2014). However, the recent changes in legislation helped floating population to enjoy these privileges too. There is a “window” in legislation that offers a possibility for employees under UEBMI to cover their employees with healthcare insurance (Zhao et al., 2014). Considering previously mentioned enclave organizations, many floating population representatives can get a healthcare insurance if they work for the employer under the UEBMI. Therefore, everything that is related to job satisfaction rate favors the floating population compared to local residents if migrants can find a place where these benefits can be granted by employers from the same place of origin. Unfortunately, to find such workplaces, people might spend a lot of time traveling all around China to find a better environment.

Over the top of these facts, it is essential to state that another factor that influences people’s decisions relies in the establishment of better future for their families. However, better living conditions might orient on long-term benefits rather than short-term. Previously described aspects correlated with people’s intention to find a well-paid job and enjoy some benefits regarding better household, food, and health insurance. Despite these facts, people might also migrate to find a better education for their children and themselves. Such factor could be classified as the long-term opportunity as it was reported that numerous children faced difficulties to access schools (Liang & Chen, 2007). Such problem arises because Public-Funded Schools do not accept immigrants while private schools cannot be afforded or have limitations regarding floating population representatives (Liang & Chen, 2007). On the other side, there are illegal Schools for Migrant Workers’ Children that are present in many cities (Liang & Chen, 2007). Such schools provide the needed education for floating population children, further influencing the growth of the floating population rate.

Nevertheless, it can be assumed that such illegal schools are rare and they cannot grant the needed education to all immigrant children. However, it should be mentioned that permanent migrant children are more likely to be enrolled in school compared to local children (Yan, 2005). Such paradox happens because parents have a selective nature so that they consider all the aspects that might affect their living before moving in the new area (Yan, 2005). However, enclave schools might also help the floating population to find the desired education.


To summarize the issue, it should be mentioned that China faces a new sociological phenomenon that is called “floating population.” In the majority of cases, people, who try to find a better place to live, seek for the best opportunities with the possibility to get a well-paid job to sustain their families. Hence, some major problems that migrants face are relevant to low-skilled labor, specific requirements on working places, limited privileges, no hukou, worse education, and other possible factors. However, floating population adapted to new challenges and found the way to thrive. Government regulations promoted the equal labor for everybody so that people can now find jobs easier. Growing investments from both local and international investors encourage businesses to grow and develop so that more workers are needed all around the country, creating additional cause for migrations. Despite these facts, specific laws that aimed to enhance healthcare service encouraged more people to seek for better living condition, providing them the possibility of health insurance coverage. Selective nature of immigrants also grants them the ability to find a particular enclave organization where employers might help them to get a well-paid job with additional benefits of promotions and the healthcare coverage. Moreover, the existence of illegal schools for workers annihilates the problem of uneducated youth as the same enclave principle can be used to enroll to school. For now, children have even higher chances to get enrolled compared to local residents. Finally, people also learn new things during their migration so that further promotions and higher wages are easier to reach because they learn new languages and skills that might be required for such an achievement. Therefore, there are no constraints regarding migration so people join floating population without any concerns regarding barriers that might arise during their travel. Hence, it might be difficult to find a better place to live in, but that is possible, and more and more people leave their poor living conditions and start their long journey to find the desired “paradise” which is confirmed by the constant increase of the floating population rate.

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