High-skilled migration policies of Chinese cities: variation and explanations
- Dr LEE, Siu Yau
This project aims to construct a comprehensive database of high-skilled migration policies of medium to mega sized Chinese cities, and based on the data collected, explain intercity policy variations.
As China urbanizes and grapples with a shrinking workforce, inter-city competition for skilled domestic migrants has intensified. Nearly all cities hammer out ambitious policies to lure migrants. Not only do they relax residency requirements, many also offer lavish financial incentives. Such intense and large-scale competition for domestic migrants is unprecedented and may provide critical information for analyzing China’s ongoing demographic and industrial transformation. Yet Chinese cities’ migration policies to attract highly-skilled individuals have not so far been systematically documented, let alone explained. This project aims to construct a comprehensive database of high-skilled migration policies of medium to mega sized Chinese cities, and based on the data collected, explain intercity policy variations. The database will allow for measurement of the magnitude of incentive, as well as comparison of inter-city differences. Our coding scheme is inspired by established international indices of high-skilled immigration policies and our prior analysis of migration policies in China. As such the database will transcend the mere application of international indices, which are generally ill-suited to measure the magnitude of incentives and preferential treatments, and make original contributions to the literature on internal migration in China. More importantly, to explain inter-city policy variations, the project will collect relevant city-level data such as demographic composition, human capital, influence of land developers, and welfare provision. Existing explanations generated in the western context tend to focus on the immigration attitudes of the natives and partisan politics. These explanations are less applicable to China, where local officials face unique dynamics in policy making. In particular, a widely shared yet untested speculation about the new policy is that it is caused by the oversupply of real estate. This hypothesis, if confirmed, would add a new dimension to the discussion of the determinants of migration policy, in which concerns over the property market have received less attention. Taken together, the data collected in this literature would allow for testing of hypotheses concerning the nature of migrant competition in China, theories of political accountability in an authoritarian context, and the relations between welfare and migration policy.
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