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Inflection point for China’s mass migration to cities

During holidays in China, more than 100 million urban dwellers travel home to rural villages where they grew up. (Hung Chung Chih /

The flood of migrants into China’s cities that fueled economic growth for three decades is beginning to wane. Jamil Anderlini reports for FT Magazine, published by the Financial Times, that workers weary of air pollution, dangerous work conditions and family separation are heading home.

“Many prominent economists believe China has reached the so-called Lewis Turning Point,” Anderlini writes. This occurs when the supply of cheap migrant labor runs low in an industrialized economy. Sir Arthur Lewis, a 1979 Nobel laureate, crafted the theory.

According to the article, less than one-fifth of China’s citizens lived in urban areas in 1978, when economic reforms were adopted that encouraged migration. Today, more than half the nation’s population lives in cities.

But many of the 275 million workers who left rural villages — a third of the nation’s workforce — are having second thoughts. A frequent complaint is that they’re treated like second-class citizens in cities. That’s because China’s rigid “hukou” regime denies them access to education, pensions, health care and other services after they relocate. 

Financial Times

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