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社会学
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13. Gendered Migration and the Migration of Genders in Contemporary China

图书名称:Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Households, and Gender in China
图书作者:Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson    ISBN:
出版社:Berkeley: University of California Press    出版日期:2000年

Wang Feng

Throughout history women in China have always moved as frequently as, if not more than, men. Women moved with their parents or husbands, but more often, they moved by themselves on the occasion of marriage. Indeed for several decades of the recent past, when migration in general was under tight government control, women's movement via marriage was the largest migrating force circulating the blood of the Chinese population. The exogamous nature of Chinese female marriages is a well-established social fact. According to the 1988 Two-per-Thousand Fertility and Birth Control Survey conducted by the State Family Planning Commission of China, marriage migration accounted for 83 percent of all within-province permanent migrations before 1949, 74 percent in the 1950s, 72 percent in the 1960s, and 60 percent in the 1970s. Almost all of these marriage migrants were women (Liang and Chen 1993). Whereas most of these within-province marriage migrations occurred in rural areas, migration to urban areas demonstrates a similar gender pattern. A 1986 survey of people residing in urban households (excluding those residing in institutions and construction sites) in 74 cities and towns found that over 60 percent of permanent female migrants moved for marriage and family related reasons. By contrast, less than 2 percent of men moved for marriage and more than half of all male migrants moved for work-related and demobilization reasons (S. Goldstein and A. Goldstein 1991).

Most of these female migrations, however, moved women downwards on the social ladder. Women, not men, had to leave their familiar natal home and move to the home of a stranger, to live with their husbands and often also with parents-in-law. In the worst cases, women were abducted and sold to far away places (see chap. 9). Female migration in the past was an expression of the patrilineal, virilocal nature of Chinese society.

This gendered pattern of migration continued with little change under the post-1949 socialist rule. For the most part, migration policies of the socialist government, intentionally or unintentionally, benefited men more than women. First, at the same time that rural-to-urban migration became tightly controlled, the government did not attempt any serious alteration in the tradition of patrilocal marriage arrangements. However, the increased regional inequality between communities down to the village level, and increased equality within a village maintained under the collective farming system, may actually have started to change the tradition of female exogamy. Women in poor villages were willing to marry out to better villages, whereas women in rich villages were inclined to marry men in the same village. Whereas increased village endogamy may have created a marriage market problem for men in poor villages, it may have also contributed to greater power for women who remained in their natal villages.

Second, the limited upward migration opportunities from rural to urban areas were almost exclusively reserved for men. Not only were men more likely to be recruited directly for newly created urban employment opportunities, but the two major mobility routes to leave the countryside after 1960—urban job assignments after graduating from universities and after serving in the military—were also almost solely available to men.[1] Thus, whereas women moved in larger numbers and more frequently than men under the collective and planned economy era, their migration was mostly horizontal between rural villages, and they were largely excluded from the opportunities of social and economic mobility. Migration associated with social and economic mobility was largely male-dominated. Perhaps for the same reason, female migration was largely invisible and hardly appeared as a topic of interest in the discussion of migration.[2]

During the present era, in which the Chinese social landscape is being drastically re-drawn by the massive movement of people between different locales especially from rural to urban areas, are gender relations also being redefined by the increased population mobility? In this review chapter, drawing from the three chapters in this section and other recent research, I raise and then explore the following three questions: (1) To what extent have Chinese women participated in economic migration in recent years? (2) Are women moving independently or mostly in association with their husbands and families? (3) To what extent has migration affected women's work and gender relations in China?

WOMEN IN MIGR ATION

My first question is this: Is migration mostly an opportunity reserved for and seized by men? More to the point: Is upward mobility, from rural to urban areas, an activity monopolized by men in China? To answer this question we need to separate different kinds of migration streams and examine the gender composition of each of them.

Whereas there is a clear consensus that the overall volume of migration has increased tremendously in China since the late 1970s, there is little agreement about the exact volume and the composition of the migrant streams. What is not clear is how the increase should be measured. The volume of migration, as well as the gender composition of migrants, depends on the definitions used and the kind of migrations considered.[3]

First, there is the difference between permanent and temporary migration. The former is associated with the change of household registration (hukou), which S. Goldstein, Liang, and A. Goldstein (chap. 12) and Yang (chap. 11) label as “official migration,” while the latter is not. To be able to change one's household registration from rural to urban or from agricultural to nonagricultural was until a few years ago perhaps the most difficult and yet the most valuable change that could affect one's identity and fate (Cheng and Seldon 1994; Solinger 1999; Wang Feng 1996; X. Yang 1993). Second, there is the difference in the direction of migration. Rural to rural migration, especially female marriage migration, does not necessarily improve one's chances of upward social and economic mobility, as compared with rural to urban migration. Most attention has focused on the migration from rural to urban areas, mainly because this type of migration is relatively recent and is more closely related to the broad changes taking place in Chinese society. A meaningful assessment of women's share in the migration streams needs to go beyond the broad description of migration volume or rates by gender.

Males represent a clear majority in the de jure, or official, migration from rural to urban areas. Even though approximately the same proportion of males and females were counted as official migrants between 1985 and 1990, many more men than women moved from rural to urban areas. Nationally, among migrants who originated from the countryside, only 49 percent of females versus 73 percent of male migrants moved to cities and towns. A similar picture is shown for Hubei province, where 71 percent of male official migrants ended up in cities while only 57 percent female official migrants did so (chap. 12, table 12.2). Most female official migrations involved marriage migration, moving from one village to another. In other words, if we exclude marriage migrations, labor migration (the major type outside of marriage migration) associated with change of residence is more frequent for men than women. Even though male and female official migration seems to have maintained a balanced sex ratio, men are much more likely to move to cities permanently.

When we turn to temporary or unofficial migrants—those not acquiring the institutional privilege of changing household registration status from agricultural to nonagricultural—we find that women are much better represented than they are in the case of official migration. In Zhejiang, females constitute 47.1 percent of total migrants moving within the province and staying at their destination for more than a year. The gender gap is much smaller than in the case of official migration (chap. 11). In Hubei, the percentage of unofficial migrants that ended up in cities is found to be higher for women than men (70 versus 63 percent) (chap. 12, table 12.2). Controlling for age, education, and occupational characteristics, S. Goldstein, Liang, and A. Goldstein (chap. 12) found a higher propensity for females than males to be temporary migrants. Sociodemographic differences between men and women are important in explaining their different migration propensities.

These comparisons lead to two observations. First, women are well represented in the migration streams. Migration is not a mostly male activity. Men still outnumber women in the absolute number of migrants, but women's share in economic migration is more than substantial. In some cases they make up 40 percent or more of the total migrants. Among young temporary migrants in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, for instance, females outnumber males by 2.5 to 1 among those aged 15 to 19 and 1.25 to 1 among those aged 20 to 24 (Liang 1996). Second, the existing institutional arrangements are still clearly biased in favor of men, as shown in the case of gender differences in official rural-to-urban migration. A much higher percentage of men than women move from rural to urban areas as permanent migrants. Where institutional barriers pose less of a hurdle, as in the case of temporary migrants, women are at least as able to seize the opportunities of mobility as men. This is seen in the much narrower gap in the gender composition of temporary migrants.

WOMEN DURING MIGR ATION

Are women “associational” migrants, meaning that they move with their family and mainly for family-related reasons? The answer is no for the majority of female unofficial migrants. As shown in Yang's study on the province of Zhejiang (chap. 11), the majority of female migrants moved specifically for economic reasons. This is especially so when marriage migration, which is dominated by women and dictated by the patrilocal tradition, is excluded. In Hubei, as shown by S. Goldstein, Liang, and A. Goldstein in chapter 12, close to 80 percent of female temporary migrants were employed in the labor force. Such a high concentration of voluntary, economically motivated migrants among women demonstrates a high degree of female independence. Even for those who reportedly moved for family reasons, their role in economic activities should not be dismissed.

The fact that women migrated largely independently of men is also illustrated by another very interesting demographic phenomenon, namely, the difference in marital composition between female and male rural-to-urban migrants. Among male migrants a higher percentage are married, whereas among female migrants, many more are single. A survey conducted in Sichuan and Anhui provinces in 1995 by the Ministry of Agriculture found that among young migrant laborers, 68 percent of females in Sichuan and 63 percent in Anhui were not married, whereas the numbers for males are only 44 and 49 percent (Rural Economy Research Center 1996). There is, in other words, a coexistence in urban China of unmarried female migrants and married male migrants living apart from their spouses. Because of the nature of male migrants' work (many work in construction) and difficulties in housing, child care, and schooling in their destinations, many wives and children cannot move with their husbands even if they would like to. In Shanghai, for example, even though 64 percent of rural migrants are married, the spouses of only about one-fifth of them are in Shanghai (Wang Feng and Zuo 1996). While many unmarried rural migrants may desire to marry someone in the city, there simply may not be a market for them to realize this goal. In Shenzhen where 2.4 million temporary migrants heavily dominate the city's rapidly growing population (accounting for 72 percent of all residents), sex ratios in the young age groups of 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 are only 39 and 83 respectively (Liang 1996). Moreover, because of female migrants' ambiguous resident status and uncertain employment prospects, most of them are not attractive to urban bachelors. At the same time, many of the female migrants living in the cities start to look down on farmers back home and even spurn unmarried male migrants in cities. This combination of increased expectations and meager living conditions has consequently delayed their marriages, for some perhaps indefinitely.

Partly because of their unmarried status and fewer family obligations, young rural women may find it easier to embark on a journey earlier rather than later in their lives. Among migrants surveyed in Shenzhen and Foshan of Guangdong province, 57 and 67 percent of female migrants reported that they made the decision to move by themselves (versus 81 and 86% among male migrants). In Hubei, based on a 1992 survey, more women than men (39 versus 35%) made the decision to move by themselves (Guo 1996).[4] Many women leave home before marriage with the hope of making a living and saving money for their dowry and perhaps even accumulating some capital to start a small business.

Migrants' types of work also reveal a unique gender pattern. The composition of female temporary migrants' employment is different from that of both male migrants and female permanent residents of cities. For instance, the percentage of female temporary migrants working in sales and service sectors is not only higher than that of male migrants, it is also much higher than nonmigrating female employees (Q. Yang and Guo 1996). Working as a nanny (baomu) is one occupation in which female temporary migrants are prevalent in cities all over China. The 1990 census, which seriously undercounts the large number of unofficial migrants, found that men outnumber women by 2.3 to 1 among rural-to-urban unofficial migrants. In sales and service occupations, the ratios are only 1.7 and 1.1 to 1. In fact, the percentages of women working in these sectors are much higher than men: 1.37 to 1 in sales, and over 2 to 1 in service (Q. Yang and Guo 1996). Among Zhejiang unofficial, or de facto, permanent migrants, women outnumber men 1.43 to 1 in commerce and 1.68 to 1 in service. Among the nonmigrant population, either at the origin or at the destination, no such sharp gender difference in these occupations is observed (Q. Yang and Guo 1996, table 4). In fact, not only do female migrants choose to work in sales and service sectors, they are also more welcome in cities, since they are perceived as safer to bring into urban households and more trustworthy than male migrants.

The massive flow of rural female migrants to urban areas as temporary migrants and the unique employment pattern just described are products of supply and demand factors, some of which are especially conducive to female migration. From the supply side, rural women, especially the large number of young, unmarried women born during the high-fertility decades of the 1960s and early 1970s, find it especially difficult to find employment opportunities in rural areas. The few available farming and rural industry jobs were first given to men (see chap. 8). Unmarried rural women may feel a greater push to go out to make a living before getting married. In the receiving destination for these migrants, however, there are not only jobs in manufacturing and electronics industries, where women are especially welcomed for their presumably finer motor skills, but the prior economic arrangement in urban centers under the planned economy also created a large vacuum in service and sales sectors, to be filled mainly by women.

WOMEN AFTER MIGRATION

What effect does migration have on women's work and on gender equality? In other words, along with the female and male migrating armies, do we also see changes in gender relations, or the migration of genders, in China? This issue should be examined from the perspectives of those who have moved from rural to urban areas as well as those who have stayed in the countryside.

Clearly, migration has increased work opportunities for women. Even though men still outnumber women in most migration streams, the need for labor in the service and sales sectors has made it easier, in some cases, for women than for men to work in urban areas. The benefits of migration are more than economic. Female migrants are more gainfully employed in cities than back in the countryside, and they are establishing economic independence, and even making financial contributions to their families. At the same time, from a social perspective, moving to urban areas has expanded women's—especially young women's—worldviews. Along with the newly gained economic independence, migration has enhanced female migrants' sense of independence and freedom. Indeed, most female migrants enjoy such a change in life.[5]

Female migrants' work, however, seems to be highly concentrated in a few sectors and therefore is segregated from other labor force segments in China. There is a high concentration of young, female, temporary labor migrants (dagongmei) working in plants that produce toys, shoes, garments, and electronics. Women are welcomed here because they are perceived not only as having better motor skills than men, but also as more docile and more easily disciplined (Lee 1995). Making certain industries “female” is clearly viewed as an advantage for capitalists—foreign and domestic alike. There are also a large number of female migrants, perceived as more or less controllable, who work either as boarding labor in family workshops (chap. 10) or as household maids. These women are working in more dispersed and isolated environments than male migrants or urban female workers.

Even when working in the same industries, women migrants are less likely than men to occupy positions of power and high salary. An analysis of the 1990 census data shows that among rural-to-urban temporary migrants, the percentage of men in professional/cadre/clerical positions was twice as high as for women (Q. Yang and Guo 1996). A more recent survey in Shanghai in 1995 found that women constitute only one-fifth of all the migrants in the professional/cadre/clerical occupations. Even though there is a higher proportion of women than men working in the commerce sector, the more powerful and lucrative positions of purchase agents are predominately held by men (6 to 1 ratio). Not only are women under-represented in the high earning occupations, their income is also generally lower than men's. Female migrants in Shanghai, for example, earned at least 20 percent less than males, even when factors such as age, educational attainment, and occupation were taken into account (Wang Feng and Zuo 1996).

Moreover, in comparison with urban women, female migrants lack any institutional intervention for gender equality. Because the majority of them work outside the formal economic sectors controlled by the state, they are largely on their own. This problem is not exclusively women's, but it is more pronounced for them, as their work is more segregated than that of the male migrants. The state, by refusing to take an active approach to incorporate unofficial migrants into urban society, has by and large perpetuated the dual nature of Chinese society. Unofficial migrants, called the “floating population,” have been treated just so—as a floating population. Little effort has been made to provide these people with a permanent home or with resident services in urban areas. Furthermore, migrants have generally been portrayed as a high-risk group of gangs and burglars, people who can be “good laborers during the day time and thieves in the night” (Yuan et al. 1996, 130). Unorganized and unprotected, female migrants are much more likely than their male counterparts to be subject to exploitation and manipulation. In the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen, for example, single female migrants, who staff over 80 percent of the many processing plants controlled by foreign capital, are socially constructed as “maiden workers,” emphasizing their “single status, immaturity, imminent marriage, consequent short-term commitment to factory work in Shenzhen, low job aspirations, and low motivation to learn skills” (Lee 1995, 385). In the absence of state intervention in the form of providing welfare and regulating industrial relations, single migrant workers, who rely on wage employment for their livelihood and whose wages are tied to performance, are highly vulnerable and are subject to what Lee terms a rule of “localistic despotism.”

For female migrants working within the mode of household production, Zhang (chap. 10) provides an excellent example of the gender stratification process, analyzing the interplay of class and gender in the migrant Zhejiang Village in Beijing. Female migrants are central to the migrant economy. For those who moved with their husbands, as their economic status improves, some also find themselves increasingly deprived of their personal freedom and under pressure from a more traditional form of patriarchal rule. The husbands of the most successful migrant households, being not subject to any political or social control, enjoy enormous power over their wives, who tend to suffer both emotional and physical battering. At the other extreme of the social ladder, a young migrant woman working in a family shop lives under two sets of social relationships—one as an employee and the other as a fictive junior female member in the household. In both scenarios, the power resides within the same person, the male head of the household. This kind of social experience is drastically different from that of urban women or, for that matter, of migrating men.

Different marital composition among male and female migrants may also suggest to some extent different motivations of migration and imply different long-term prospects for these migrants. Given that most male migrants are married, their move is primarily a family matter, motivated by family economic obligations. Most male migrants report the use of their remittance for household daily expenditure and for savings to build a house. By comparison, unmarried female migrants are not as often subject to such obligations. In cases where they have control over their earnings, they may spend more for themselves, or keep more for themselves, and send home less. In these cases, female migrations appear to be more individually and socially motivated. Many female migrants clearly state that their purpose of migration is to see the outside world before marriage. In the long run, while married male migrants have a home to return to, the strength of this connection is not clear for unmarried female migrants.

Migration, especially migration by men away from rural villages, has led to another much discussed concern in women's work, namely, the feminization of farming (Taylor 1988). It has been argued that as more and more male labor leaves the field for more lucrative nonagricultural activities, farming has increasingly become the job for women, children, and the less mobile elderly. Evidence on this concern is inconclusive. Some scholars have confirmed such a statement (for instance, Entwisle et al. 1995). Others, such as Yang's analysis of the Zhejiang county-level data (chap. 11), find no clear sign of any relationship between the out-migration of men and participation of females in agricultural production. It may indeed be the case that with the abundance of rural surplus labor in China, out-migration by men does not have the same negative effect on women's work in China as in other developing countries (Davin 1996).

CONCLUSION

Few social changes in China in the past decade or so have had as much impact on women's work as has the current phenomenon of migration. The goal of equal pay for equal work (tonggong tongchou) in the heyday of the Cultural Revolution was to push more rural women to work in the fields. But the general context of their work was by and large confined within the male-dominated communes and close to their male-dominated home. Opportunities for migration have led to a different kind of work. A large number of women have moved, often independently of men. By migrating away from home, their work has become not only productive but also more easily and clearly definable, as compared with their work in the earlier context of household farming (see chap. 2). Even for those women who have taken over the responsibility of farming in the countryside, not only is their labor more fully used, but their work has also become more recognizable and therefore more appreciated.

Contrary to the belief that men go out to make a living and women stay home to raise children and to take care of the family, women have constituted a large share of the unofficial migrating streams and have seized the opportunity of upward social and economic mobility via the route of migration as much as men. Alongside the many married men who migrate and leave their wives and children behind, there is a very sizable migrating force composed of unmarried women. Women have not only found a niche in industries such as textiles, tailoring, and electronics, they have also filled the need for domestic services and sales in urban areas, left unfilled by men. Increased labor force participation in the extrafamilial context has empowered a large number of rural women with increased economic resources and expanded social horizons.

Work associated with migration, however, has also generated a number of dilemmas and uncertainties. At the same time that women escape from the patriarchal control of their families and kin, many of them plunge into a sea of migrating workers who are neither protected by the family nor, unlike their urban sisters, by the state. Depending on their rank within the stratification ladder of migrants, female migrants can be subject to more overt discrimination and unscrupulous exploitation both in the workplace and in society at large than they would have experienced back at home.

Such a price might be worth paying if, in the long run, migrants' increased economic standing through hard work can translate into a better life for them. So far, such a prospect is not at all certain. Within the context of a sustained urban-rural dual social system, female rural migrants, like their male counterparts, have not been incorporated into urban society. They have been largely treated as transient, as there only to serve the unmet needs of the urban population and urban economic growth (Solinger 1995c, 1999). In other words, they are allowed to “float” but denied the right to stay. Migrants' housing arrangements are mostly temporary, as Zhang's story (chap. 10) of the demolition of a huge housing compound eloquently demonstrates. Family life is at best transitional, and access to basic benefits such as medical care, labor insurance, and old age pensions almost nonexistent. These institutional disincentives, a legacy of China's long-standing dual economy and dual society, pose hard barriers for rural migrants to cross.[6]

These institutional barriers seem to be more difficult for female than for male migrants to overcome. Female migrants may indeed be paying a higher price for being able to work more and for the current increase in economic status and personal freedom. Female migrant workers are segregated into special trades that may lead to being either exploited collectively (in the case of female-dominant processing factories) or controlled individually (in the case of household servants and workers). Among rural-to-urban permanent migrants, men still outnumber women by a large margin. Many female temporary migrants in the cities have postponed their marriages, and it is not clear whether such a postponement will be temporary. Female migrants may find it much harder than men to entertain the idea of returning to the countryside to marry either a farmer or a fellow male migrant, partly because on a daily basis a substantial number of them experience a higher layer of Chinese urban social life than men do, by working as domestics in well-to-do urban families. The lifestyle they have witnessed at close range makes it harder for them to adjust to life back in the countryside.[7] The work of migrant females, therefore, is defined simultaneously by the institutional legacy of China's socialism and by the rising tide of capitalism.




NOTES

* I would like to thank Dorothy Solinger for her comments and suggestions in revising this essay.

1. The proportion of females among university students stayed at a level of 25 percent for the 1950s and 1960s, and around 30 percent in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Bauer et al. 1992). It is safe to assume, however, that most female university students were from urban families. Also see chapter 12 for the sharp contrast between genders of permanent migrants in association with job assignment and schooling.

2. A notable exception is Lavely (1991).

3. Solinger (1999) gives an excellent account of the definitions and count of migrants. The 1990 Chinese census, for example, gives a total number of migrants for the period from 1985 to 1990 as 33.84 million, which results in a rate of migration of 3.5 percent. By comparison, a 1994 survey conducted by China's Ministry of Agriculture reports the number of rural-to-urban labor migrants as 64 million, implying a magnitude of total migrants several times of that of the census only a few years earlier. Other commonly seen numbers give anywhere between 80 million and 100 million migrants at any point of time in the early 1990s. The rate given by the census is extremely low compared with 20 to 23 percent in Japan and Austria and 45 to 48 percent in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (You 1993). This migration rate from the census is clearly an undercount, since the migration population only included those who changed place of residence between 1985 and 1990, and excluded all those who moved back and forth between locations and returned to the place of residence of 1985 at the time of the 1990 census and those who had moved for less than a year. The larger numbers of migrants reported in the media, however, may also include temporary visitors who are not necessarily migrants. For example, in the migration survey of 1986, which surveyed 74 cities and towns, over 70 percent of female and over 65 percent of male temporary immigrants listed “visiting” as the reason for being away from home, and roughly another 5 percent listed “hospital care” and “travel” as reasons. In other words, only a very small minority of migrants admitted to migrating for work-related reasons (S. Goldstein and A. Goldstein 1991). This distribution is a result of the definition of migration (who are considered migrants), precoded categories of answers (visiting is a very loose category) and the nature of the sample (only the population residing in households were surveyed). By comparison, a survey of migrants in Hubei province conducted in 1988 found that over 80 percent of male and 55 percent of female temporary migrants reported their movement as job or business related (chap. 12). The 1990 census results, with permanent and temporary migrants combined (but excluding those circular migrants who moved out of their home residence after 1985 but returned before the census in 1990), reveal that over half of all male migrants and close to one-third of all female migrants moved for job and business reasons. 

4. All these numbers are in fact predicted probabilities based on multivariate analysis. These predicted percentages are preferable to raw percentages tabulated, as they are controlled for factors such as age, education, marital status, and birth order in the family.

5. S. Goldstein, Liang, and A. Goldstein (chapter 12) report that among temporary migrants in Hubei province, more women indicated satisfaction with their move than men.

6. Such barriers are clearly perceived by most rural migrants in Shanghai. A 1995 survey of migrants in Shanghai found that only about a third of all migrant respondents expressed the intention to stay, if possible (Wang Feng and Zuo 1996).

7. I would like to acknowledge Danching Ruan for raising this aspect of some female migrants' experience.

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