Precarity among highly educated migrants: college graduates in Beijing, China

Hao Wang, Wei Li, Y. Deng

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Abstract

The growing knowledge-based and service economies in megacities like Beijing and Shanghai have attracted large numbers of highly educated migrants, whereas their living conditions have drawn plenty of attention. In examining these issues, we conducted an empirical study regarding the precarity among highly educated migrants in Beijing. There are some structural and institutional factors underneath the highly educated migrants’ precarity, as the household registration (hukou) system still plays a significant role in accessing social welfare (urban public housing) and job opportunities in Beijing. Although the new urban poverty has occurred in the city as a result of the questionable policies regarding social distribution and welfare, it can also be argued that some of these migrants view temporary precarity as a strategy toward future upward social mobility – the hope of doing better over the long term.

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