The impact of hukou status on migrants' employment

Findings from the 1997 Beijing Migrant Census

Fei Guo*, Robyn Iredale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)


This article uses new data to analyze whether the 1990s brought a change in terms of migrants' access to urban jobs. The November 1997 " Beijing Migrant Census" provides a unique data set that enables a quantitative assessment of non-locally registered migrants' access to the formal sector, and more specifically to "white-collar" occupations. The results show that a university degree and a nonagricultural registration status are both means of increasing access to employment in the formal sector. The "formal" sector is defined as employment with five types of large, relatively stable employers - government organizations, state-owned enterprises, joint ventures, shareholding enterprises, and enterprises owned/invested in by foreign, Hong Kong, or Taiwanese capital (San Zi). White collar jobs, in particular, are only available to migrants with a university degree, with hukou status having a limited relative effect. This article shows that qualified migrants are penetrating the formal job market while the majority of migrants are still taking low level jobs in the informal sector. This dichotomy represents a recent change that could reflect a new stream of migrants and/or more open urban employment. At the same time, the continuing segregation or marginalization of most migrants is clearly evident from the data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-731
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Migration Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004

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