4.12.2012 | Von:
Bettina Gransow

Areas of Employment: Regional and Gender-Specific Differences

The majority of migrant workers are employed in the manufacturing industry and work predominantly in the developed regions along the east coast (see Table).

Näherei in ChinaThe majority of migrant workers are employed in the manufacturing industry and work predominantly in the developed regions along the east coast. (© Bettina Gransow )

Employment in the construction industry follows in second place but is comparatively scarce in the eastern regions as, on account of the threat of a property bubble, investment is sluggish and consequently job opportunities in this sector are limited. This is not the case in the provinces of central China nor, in particular, the western provinces. Accordingly, more migrants are employed in the construction sector in these regions than along the east coast of China. These figures are also reflected in the Chinese government’s policy of investing more heavily in the infrastructure of the inland provinces.

Areas of Employment of Rural Migrant Workers in China by Regions in % (2011)
Areas of Employment:TotalEastern Regions[1]Central Chinese Regions[2]Western Regions[3]
Manufacturing industry36.044.823.015.4
Construction industry17.713.424.727.4
Transportation, communications, warehousing and mail6.
Wholesale and retail10.18.713.112.5
Hotel and catering5.
Service industry12.212.311.412.2
Source: http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjfx/fxbg/t20120427_402801903.htm, accessed 6-24-2012

At least three differences between male and female migration should be highlighted:
  1. concentration in particular areas of employment. Whereas it is predominantly men that work in the construction industry, in the export industry and in the catering and service areas many young women are also employed.
  2. Roughly the same number of men and women migrate, but fewer female than male migrants are in an employment situation. The ratio of male to female migrants was (2009) 50.4% to 49.6%.[4] In 2009, altogether 78.6% of 16 to 59-year-old migrants were in employment. For the men the figure was 92.5%, while for the women it was 65.5%; more than a quarter of them were housewives.
  3. On average, the female migrant workers are younger than their male counterparts. Fewer young women take up paid employment than young men, but when they do, they start at an earlier age. Thus there are more women than men in the age cohorts 15-19, 20-24 and 25-29; in the higher age cohorts the reverse is the case.[5]

This text is part of the policy brief on "Internal Migration in China – Opportunity or Trap?".


The eastern regions comprise Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, Guangdong and Hainan.
The central Chinese regions include Shanxi, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Anhui, Jiangxi, Henan, Hubei and Hunan.
The western regions comprise Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Tibet, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang.
Guojia renkou (2010), p. 37.
Guojia renkou (2010), pp. 38/39.
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