Migration & Urbanisation

The focus of our research in this area is on social inclusion of rural-urban migrant populations (voluntary or involuntary) and methods that enhance their wellbeing. Our current research projects on migration and urbanisation include:  

  • governance of migrant-concentrated communities in Chinese cities 
  • wellbeing and subjective wellbeing of migrant children 
  • rural-urban linkage 
  • urban and development policies and their impact on migration

Our researchers are also beginning to explore work on Chinese migrants in Australia.  

Our research on China and other international projects means we have the capacity and rich experience to carry out comparative studies. 

Why is this research important? 

The experience of China is particularly relevant to the world given the scale of the challenges. In some Chinese cities, migrant populations can represent up to 50% of the total population. Our research looks to answer questions that these rural and urban societies and governments face, including:  

  • How have they coped so far?  
  • Are the current situations sustainable?  
  • How can we improve the livelihoods of the people affected?  
  • How can we improve governance to minimise vulnerability?  

The answers to these questions can be relevant to many parts of the world; our research outputs would be of interest to any academic researchers, policy makers or students from developing countries trying to understand China’s development, and learn from its practices (good or bad). 

Migration in China is also no longer limited to migrant labour. The governing approach for cities has changed. There are various urban and local development initiatives that are closely linked to migration and urbanisation. Some of the initiatives are local, innovative and unconventional. As a result, it is important to understand the relationship between policies at different levels, and examine how local strategies cope with the pressure (or take advantage of) migration for development. It is equally important to understand how these new initiatives have contributed or affected individual, household and social wellbeing. 

Past research on migration

  • Li, B., Chen C., & Hu, B. (2016). ‘Governing urbanisation and the New Urbanisation Plan in China’. Environment & Urbanisation, 28(2), 515–534. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247816647345
  • Li, B. (2014). ‘The Governance of ‘Problematic Neighbourhoods’ and Their Transitions Overtime’ (Chengshi wenti shequ shehui zhili de butong shijiao jiqi bianqian). In K. Yu (ed.), China Governance Review (Zhongguo Zhili Pinglun) (Chinese), 5, 109–122.
  • Li, B., & Zhang, Y. (2011). ‘Housing provision for rural-urban migrant workers in Chinese cities: the roles of the state, employers and the market’. Social Policy & Administration, 45(66), 694–713. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2011.00803.x
  • Fisher, K. R., & Shang, X. (2016). Young people moving from rural foster care to cities in China. In K. Soldatic, & K. Johnson (eds.), Disability and Rurality: Identity, Gender and Belonging. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315577340
  • Nordensvard, J., Urban, F., & Li, B. (2015). ‘Chinese overseas hydro-power dams and social sustainability: The Bui dam in Ghana and the Kamchay dam in Cambodia’. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 2(3), 573–589. https://doi.org/10.1002/app5.103
  • Shin, H. B., & Li, B. (2013). ‘Whose games? The costs of being “Olympic citizens in Beijing”’. Environment and Urbanization, 25(2) 559–576. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0956247813501139
  • Li, B. & An, X. (2010). ‘Migrants as a source of revenue in small town China’. Environment and Urbanisation, 22(1), 51–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247809356179
  • Li, B., & Duda, M. (2010). ‘Employers as landlords for rural to urban migrants in Chinese cities’. Environment and Urbanisation, 22(1), 13–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247809358038[ES1] 
  • Li, B., Duda, M, & An, X. (2009). ‘Drivers of Housing Choice Among Rural-to-Urban Migrants: Evidence from Taiyuan’. Journal of Asian Public Policy, 2(2), 142–156. https://doi.org/10.1080/17516230903027898
  • Li, B., & An, X. (2009). Migration and small towns in China: Power hierarchy and resource allocation. Human Settlements Working Paper Series Rural-Urban Interactions and Livelihood Strategies No.16. IIED, London. https://pubs.iied.org/10575IIED/
  • Duda, M., Li, B., & Peng, H. (2008). Household Strategies and Migrant Housing Quality. In I. Tianjin, & R. Smyth (eds.), Migration and Social Protection in China (pp. 184–204). Singapore: World Scientific. https://doi.org/10.1142/6714
  • Li, B. (2008). Why Do Migrant Workers Not Participate in Urban Social Security Schemes? The Case of the Construction and Service Sectors in Tianjin, China.  In I. Tianjin, & R. Smyth (eds.), Migration and Social Protection in China (pp. 92–117). Singapore: World Scientific. https://doi.org/10.1142/6714
  • Li, B. (2006.) ‘Floating Population or Urban Citizens? Status, Social Provision and Circumstances of Rural-Urban Migrants in China’. Social Policy & Administration, 40(2), 174–195. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2006.00483.x
  • Li, B. & Shin, H.B. (2013). ‘Intergenerational housing support between retired old parents and their children in urban China’. Urban Studies, 50(16). https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0042098013483602
  • Li, B. & Duda, M. (2011). Life considerations and the housing of rural to urban migrants: the case of Taiyuan. In B. Carrillo, & J. Duckett, (eds.), China’s changing welfare mix: local perspectives (pp. 151–170). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203832776
  • Kumar, S. & Li, B. (2007). Urban Labour Market Changes and Social Protection for Urban Informal Workers Challenges for China and India. In F. Wu (ed.), China’s Emerging Cities: the Making of New Urbanism (pp.109–125). London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203937808