China

Migration & Agriculture in China

 

China has experienced rapid social and economic transitions in the past 40 years, including the legalization of rural migration near the end of the 1980s which had a significant impact on agriculture in the country.

China team group photo at the vegetable planting base of Taipingqiao Village in Nanxian, Hunan in February 2021

Impacts include the social effects on those left behind in rural districts as family members move to urban centers for employment, changing the dynamics of social security for the elderly and education for children. Differences in attitudes are also noteworthy between first and second-generation migrants, with the younger generation opting for less manual labor and increased employment in manufacturing and the service sector.

Migration effects in agriculture also intersect, with evidence of farmland becoming more fragmented and land being abandoned due to high costs of cultivation in some places leading to low profits. In response, technologies such as machinery and labor-saving cropping patterns are being used to counter rising labor costs. In addition, in some areas land policies as well as larger-scale farming practices are being introduced to deal with the low efficiency of smallholder systems.

 

Research FocusProject SitesCovid-19 & Migration

Under the AGRUMIG project, and before the pandemic effects were felt, the team proposed to examine differences in rural migration and farming activities using quantitative data collected in 2008, 2014 and 2018, as well as qualitative data collected in 2020 and 2021. The central focus of their work is on:

  • Rural migration and change from the household to village level in specific research sites
  • Changes in agriculture and the impacts on rural migration on agriculture
  • Future adjustments from the micro to macro levels in China

Our project study sites:

  • Site 1: Dahan village in Sishui Town and Liandong village in Shalang Town(Maomin City, Guangdong, China)
  • Site 2: Zhongqiling and Taipingqiao Village (Sanxianhu Town/Nanxian County, Hunan, China)
  • Site 3: Wushi and Wanfu Village (Qixi town/Xinjian county, Jiangxi, China)

In early 2020 the coronavirus pandemic in China hindered processes of migration in China, though most migrant laborers found jobs in the city in the second half of the year. For some migrants, the impact of the pandemic included losing at least two months’ wages, and some facing decreased wages or longer working times in factories. In response, the AGRUMIG China team conducted case studies and focus group discussion in Nanxian county, Hunan Province to better understand the impacts of Covid-19 on migration in China.

Country Team Members

Chen Fengbo, Associate Professor of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

Shang Chunrong, Professor of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

Shi Min, Lecture of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

Cai Jian, Associate Professor of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

Institutions

South China Agricultural University

Wushan RD, Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China

+862085282110

South China Agricultural University (SCUA), situated in Guangzhou, Pearl River Delta, has a history spanning more than 100-years. One of the country’s key universities, SCAU is the most important agricultural university in southern China, and has particular strengths in agronomy, animal science, horticulture and agricultural economics.

Project Outputs

During July and August, 2019, the SCAU team conducted household survey work at research sites in Guangdong, Jiangxi and Hunan, including collecting information from more than 400 households. In January 2020, the SCAU team undertook qualitative survey work in research sites in Guangdong and Jiangxi, and from Feb 2-7, 2021, we have conducted qualitative survey work in research sites in Hunan. In all, we have conducted 52 in-depth interviews, focused on specific questions tailored to each interview subject as precisely as possible. For example, to members of village committees (male/female), and village clinic doctors or schoolteachers. We have also conducted 21 FGDs including a migrants’ groups, migrants and family members as a group, a farmers’ group, and a (left behind) elders’ group. In addition, a women’s group, a children/youth group and members of the local village committee group.

The SCAU team also finished a literature review for the impact of rural migration on rural communities and the agricultural sector in China, and for the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on rural society and agricultural production.

  • Chen Fengbo conducting a group interview with the peasants in Zhongqiling Village February 2021

Contact point:

Chen Fengbo, Associate Professor of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

Cai Jian, Associate Professor of College of Economics and Management, South China Agricultural University

 

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