International Development Planning Review

Social inequalities in mobility: the impact of the hukou system on migrants' job accessibility and commuting costs in Beijing

International Development Planning Review (2010), 32, (3-4), 363–384.

Abstract

Social inequality between migrants and the local urban population has become a key issue for the project of 'building a harmonious society' in China. An important factor among the many affecting these social inequalities is the hukou system. Since the 1980s, there have been some hukou reforms which have allowed rural people to move to the cities. This paper provides an assessment of the impact of the existing hukou system on social inequality with regard to migrants' job accessibility and travel burden for journey to work in the case of Beijing. Using household survey data, the results of the analysis in this paper show that the hukou system can reduce the chances of members of migrant families getting employed and increase their time costs of commuting when many personal and household socioeconomic factors are taken into account. The results suggest that the remaining hukou system and related institutional arrangements still act as institutional barriers that hinder the reduction of social inequity and the chance of migrants improving their quality of urban life. Attempts to improve social equality between the local population and migrants will not be successful unless more effective reforms are implemented.

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Zhao, Pengjun

Howden-Chapman, Philippa