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Reasons for Farmers to Leave Hometown and Their Expectations for Future Life: Survey on 688 migrant workers in Shanghai and southern Jiangsu province


Zhao Shukai

The background of migrant workers varies in different areas. In terms of the specific entities of migration, the reasons for farmers’ migration are different relating to their motivations, family conditions and personal background. Based on the data analysis and case studies of this survey, we attempt to present some new and individual reasons for farmers to make migration. The first reason for migration is related to personal development. In this case, migration is not out of the pressure of family livelihood but a yearning for a better and prosperous life. People who leave their homeland for this reason include three kinds of farmers. Some have certain skills or are good at production and business at home; some are unmarried young graduates with well-education; and still some are mainly young farmers who have no proper jobs at home. The second reason for migration is due to poor livelihood. Living pressure is the direct reason for these farmers to leave home in a passive manner. Case studies show that this kind of migration falls into two categories: 1. Migration is due to difficulty in making both ends meet; 2. Migration is made in order to reverse decreased living standards and increase family income. The third reason for migration is out of some special reasons. The direct factors leading to migration are special, accidental or occasional events relating to some families or individuals. These events are what migrants are unwilling to see or to experience. Data analysis indicates that there are three kinds of scenarios. 1. Migrants are in conflicts with village cadres; 2. Reasons relating to one-child policy; and 3. Other special reasons. Migration out of these special reasons in a sense reflects sharpened conflicts in rural social life under specific circumstances and the conflicts between farmers and grassroots officials should draw our special attention. Farmers’ expectations for future life are closely related to reasons for migration. Generally speaking, what reasons for migration would induce what kind of expectation for life. However, the two also differ in some aspects. First, when farmers settle down and get jobs in cities, they would cherish the hope for a better life in the future and before they leave their homeland, they could not have such a hope. Second, migrant workers’expectations for a better life are rough plans to be realized in a few years in the future whereas the reasons for them to leave hometown are quite concrete and specific.


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