Rural-urban migrants: a driving force for growth

Xiaodong Gong, Sherry Kong, Shi Li, Xin Meng

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapter


A spontaneous transfer of rural labour from agriculture to secondary and tertiary
industries accompanies economic growth in most countries. It is often believed
that this movement is pushed partly by the increase of surplus labour in the
agricultural sector and, more importantly, pulled by higher returns to labour
in urban manufacturing and service industries. Through this process, modern
sectors with high productivity expand and engage more labour to move into
modern sectors, leading to an improvement in overall productivity, which in
turn gives an impetus to economic growth.
The world has witnessed China’s extraordinary pace of economic change
in the past three decades. Underlying China’s reforms are the economic incentives and possibilities made available by a wide range of institutional changes
that stimulated rapid economic growth. Since the 1990s, a most extraordinary
phenomenon in China is the large-scale demographic movement induced by
the relaxation of regulations that restricted labour mobility since the early years
of the communist regime. While the exact size of the migrant population is
debatable, official estimates suggest the number of rural migrant workers in
2005 was about 126 million (NBS 2006)—amounting to the largest peace-time
movement of people in world history.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChina's Dilemma: Economic Growth, the Environment and Climate Change
EditorsLigang Song, Wing Thye Woo
Place of PublicationAustralia
PublisherANU E Press
Number of pages43
ISBN (Print)9781921536038
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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