The acceleration of reforms following Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 “Southern Tour” set in motion a series of dramatic shifts in China’s economy. These shifts would ultimately result in a profusion of rural-to-urban migrant labourers, who have played an important role in China’s industrial and economic growth over the past several decades (Chan et al. 2010). The economic conditions and social status of these migrant workers have been the subject of intense academic debate. From the perspective of labour studies scholars and sociologists, the socio-legal status of Chinese migrant workers has declined since the turn of the 21st century. Economists, however, tend to conclude that the economic conditions of Chinese migrant workers have largely improved over this period. These oppositional conclusions stem from the dissimilar criteria that different academic disciplines use to judge the conditions of China’s migrant population: labour studies scholars and sociologists focus on the qualitative questions of workers’ rights, entitlements, and social status, whereas economists are primarily concerned with quantitative trends in migrant wages and productivity.
Though both groups of scholars muster convincing evidence to support their positions, this analysis concludes that the declining socio-legal conditions of China’s migrant population have troublesome implications for Chinese political and economic stability and ought to be taken seriously.
How to Cite:
Neagli, J., 2020. A Rising Tide Sinks All Boats? Assessing the Academic Schism Regarding Chinese Migrants’ Conditions. The Public Sphere: Journal of Public Policy, 8(1).