Welfare program participation among rural-to-urban migrant workers in China

Qingwen Xu, Xinping Guan, Fangfang Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • China
  • Migrant worker
  • Rural-to-urban migration
  • Welfare reform
  • Welfare utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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