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Female Migration and Urban Labour Markets in Tianjin



The spontaneous, large-scale population movement from the countryside to the cities witnessed in China since the early 1980s has drawn increasing attention in academic circles. However, research has tended to focus on quantitative macro-level data collection and interpretation rather than on the experiences of those involved in the migratory process. Using qualitative research methods, this article presents the experiences and perceptions of the Chinese rural female migrants as narrated by themselves. It attempts to identify by this means the major forces behind rural women's out-migration and the institutional changes and structural barriers that have shaped women's lives and experiences in the migratory process. The author argues that women are actors and agents in this unprecedented economic and social transformation. Through their active engagement in the urban labour market, female migrants have challenged both the traditionally defined gender roles and the spatial and socio-economic boundaries that have been structurally designated to them. Their actions may catalyse a radical rearrangement of the social, political and sexual orders.