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Keywords:

  • China;
  • migrant worker;
  • rural-to-urban migration;
  • welfare utilization;
  • welfare reform

Xu Q, Guan X, Yao F. Welfare program participation among rural-to-urban migrant workers in China

Int J Soc Welfare 2011: 20: 10–21 © 2010 The Author(s), Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and International Journal of Social Welfare.

An estimated 225 million Chinese people have migrated to cities from China's rural areas over the past two decades. These rural-to-urban migrant workers have greatly challenged China's welfare system. The pre-reform welfare system was a duel scheme with an urban–rural distinction in which rural residents were not covered by state-run welfare programs and had to rely on their families and rural collectives. The development of employment-based social insurance programs in 1999 made social welfare programs available for rural-to-urban migrant workers. Using an anonymous survey conducted in seven cities across China in 2006, we found that social insurance program participation rates were low among rural-to-urban migrant workers. Individual factors, including lack of knowledge of welfare programs and of a willingness to participate, and macro-level factors, including type of employer and industry, are critical in determining migrant workers' participation in welfare programs. Implications for policies and practice are discussed.