Spatial Characteristics and Developments of Migration in China from 2000 to 2011
Since its Open Door Policy was implemented in 1978, China has undergone great economic development. Initially, this growth was mostly concentrated in coastal areas through their advantageous locations in attracting foreign direct investment. This led to a sharp increase in employment opportunities in coastal China. By contrast, in inland China, the number of jobs decreased significantly owing to the transition to the market economy. This is a factor in the trend of rural labor migration from inland to coastal provinces that occurred before around 2000. However, since the 2000s, the introduction of the Western Development strategy has promoted the development of urban economies in China’s inland provinces. In addition, some coastal provinces are currently experiencing a labor shortage despite the massive labor surplus in rural China. It is therefore important to examine how migration within China has changed under the new conditions of its regional development. In this study, I examine the spatial characteristics and changes in internal migration in China from 2000 to 2011. To analyze the spatial transformation of migration, I selected Guangdong Province to represent coastal regions and Sichuan Province as representative of inland regions. I used the population censuses for 2001 and 2011 in each province to analyze the spatial transformation of migration.
After 2000, the increase in interprovincial migration was largely concentrated in coastal regions. In Guangdong Province, the Pearl River Delta attracted most interprovincial migration. That was because the majority of interprovincial migrants chose their destinations for economic reasons. This explains why the peripheral areas of Guangdong Province had a smaller number of such migrants in this period. There were differences in the age distribution of migrant workers in Guangdong Province. There was a marked increase in the proportion of migrant workers aged 25-49 years and the associated increase in migrants aged under 14 years. However, the number of migrant workers aged 15-24 years sharply decreased in the study period owing to a rise in the number of such people studying in high schools or universities.
In Sichuan Province, the outflow of migrants to coastal provinces was the main trend during the study period. However, the main destinations among the coastal provinces shifted from the Pearl River Delta to the Yangtze River Delta. This means that coastal provinces had to compete for labor because of the sharp increase in the number of employment opportunities. Except for coastal regions, some inland provinces, such as Chongqing Municipality, also started to attract more migrants from Sichuan Province as a result of their rapid economic development. This trend contributed to an increase in interprovincial migration from inland regions. In addition to emigrants, Sichuan Province also attracted a large number of immigrants, the majority of whom moved to Chengdu, the provincial capital. Most of these immigrants came from counties outside Chengdu. By contrast, smaller cities in peripheral areas of the province attracted fewer migrants, who mostly came from the same counties. In Sichuan Province, there were differences in the relative proportions of the age-groups among the migrant workers. The increase in the number of immigrants aged 15-24 years led to a decrease in the number of emigrant workers of this age.
From the above results, it is evident that the following three factors contributed to the labor shortage in coastal regions in the study period. The decrease in the number of migrant workers aged 15-24 years was the prime cause. The increase in employment opportunities in coastal regions allowed migrant workers to make frequent changes of workplace. This led to competition for workers in the coastal provinces and produced a labor shortage in disadvantaged areas or industries. Finally, urban development in inland regions began attracting more migrant workers. This also led to a decrease in the number of migrant workers moving from inland to coastal provinces.