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Double bane or double boon? The effects of gender and the household registration system (hukou) on female migrant workers’ employment opportunities and earnings in contemporary urban China



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There are several diverse types of employment discrimination in China’s labour market. Two of the most significant are differentials in employment opportunity and differentials in earnings by gender and household registration system (hukou). Thus, female migrant workers are doubly disadvantaged as victims of discrimination against both rural people and women. This thesis uses mixed research methods (both quantitative and qualitative approaches) to explore four questions related to this dual disadvantage: First, in the public sphere, are those with higher socioeconomic status (i.e., urbanites in China) willing to allow equal opportunities and rights for female migrant workers? Second, in the labour market, is there any evidence to demonstrate that gender and household registration system interact to shape female migrant workers’ employment opportunities and earnings? Third, still in the labour market, if a significant interaction is found between hukou and gender, the female migrant worker group will be compared to the members of three other groups: male migrant workers, urban males, and urban females. The following question will then be investigated: Do female migrant workers experience double (additive assumptions), less than double or more than double (intersectional assumptions) jeopardy in employment discrimination (opportunities and earnings) in 2003 and in 2006? Last, what are the trends in employment discrimination against this group over time? In an exploration of these four questions, this thesis offers theoretical, methodological and practical contributions to an understanding of female migrant workers’ experiences in urban China. It is found that Chinese urbanites indeed do not want to share social goods, attributes and services with female migrant workers. This hostility and intolerance in the public sphere have affected female migrant workers’ access to employment opportunities and earnings. In most cases, they have suffered more than double jeopardy with respect to employment opportunities and earnings. The trends in these two types of employment discrimination are mixed. Employment discrimination against these female migrant workers both in public sphere and in the labour market not only points to the social exclusion based on ascribed features (i.e., hukou and gender), but also reveals the nature of China’s transitional economies that involve both institutional and socio-cultural barriers to social equality.



female migrant workers, gender, hukou, employment discrimination.



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)







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