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Guest Lecture by Professor Gracia Farrer



Class Stratification and International Migration in Contemporary China



Professor Gracia Farrer



27 Feb 2016, Saturday



9.30am – 12.00pm



Seminar Room 904, level 9
NTU@One-North Campus, Executive Centre


About the Speaker:
Prof Gracia Liu-Farrer is professor of sociology at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, Japan. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, and leads the Migration and Citizenship Research Group at Waseda Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. Her research compares different immigrant groups’ economic, social and political incorporation in Japan, as well as examines the identity and belonging issues of Chinese immigrants in different ethno-national social contexts. Her interests also include the global mobility of international students and wealthy Chinese.

Rolling in the Deep: Social Stratification and Migration within and out of China
By Hou Xiaolan, graduate student, MACC

On Feb. 27th, Prof. Gracia Liu-Farrer, distinguished sociologist at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, Japan, was cordially invited to share with MACC class her research findings on identity and belonging issues of Chinese immigrants in different ethno-national social contexts. The lecture was composed of two presentations dedicated to ravel the myth of migration flows of the poorest and richest Chinese.

Born into a time when China’s population mobility was primarily directed by state policy and strictly constrained by Hukou (Household Registration Policy), Prof. Gracie Farrer started her lecture recounting her parents’ 18-year-separation by Hukou System rather than the 70km some physical distance, which triggered her perpetual perplexity of and enquiry into mainland China’s migration policy, momentum, dynamism and its social implications. Her research reveals that being a vast country divided by geographic proximity and economic disparity, China’s internal migration is primarily seasonal flow of migrant works at the bottom of social stratification. China’s rigid Hukou System, which was originally created and implemented to control resources distribution, internal people migration and monitor targeted groups, was dismantled by increasing surplus labor emancipated from farmland and the ever-growing demand of labor in urban areas. People migrant from rural to urban area with the promise of paid job, higher income, different lifestyle and self-fulfillment. While contributing immensely to host city’s GDP growth, migrant workers, however, are more than often marginalized existence faced with harsh working conditions, inadequate social security benefits, scarce educational and development opportunities, and structural policy or conventional discrimination inflicted consciously or unconsciously by their host.

After presenting migration at the bottom of the social stratification, Prof. Gracie Farrer shifted her focus to the very top - the outmigration of the rich in contemporary China. Statistics show that the rich Chinese are getting younger and better educated, and over half of them incline to migrate out to developed regions such as North America and Europe. What underlies the outmigration, Prof. Gracie Farrer argues, is that the rich see mobility as elite class consumption, apart from many obvious motives such as children education, wealth preservation and concerns over pollution and food safety issues. Migrating out is a strategy for class reproduction and a way to convert economic resources into social status and prestige. The statement is supported by the consumer logic illustrated in her intensive interviews with the migrating rich, the fact that migrants are not moving physically and their low expectation of profitable yielding from migration investment. 

The thought-provoking lecture was highly interactive as Prof. Gracie Farrer constantly engaged audience in sharing and discussion based on their empirical observation. Endless stream of questions generated during the process encompass wide range - from young migrant workers in China to the general challenges of people migration worldwide at large. Findings and insights shared by Prof. Gracie Farrer from her substantial research promote better understanding to momentous migration phenomena that is sweeping across China.


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