Rapid industrial expansion in China has led to increased migration from the country side to the cities. Although it is difficult to get exact figures, as the situation is always progressing. This results in a large ‘floating population’ of workers who live between both the cities and their home towns. When returning to the villages, migrants may find they have an increased social standing. Workers may feel relieved to return to their homes after suffering from discrimination in the cities. However alienation and a general dissatisfaction with the rural way of life may also occur. They may feel trapped by the patriarchal structure and hard labour they were once used to.
Migration can be stressful and requires many new adjustments. Actual experiences of working in an urban environment can be very different from expectations. The general illusion that money will equal happiness may have negative health effects. The relationship between migration and health is very complex. Necessities such as housing and nutrition are directly related to the prevalence of disease, and these may not be available to Chinese migrants. Although the registration system that was put into effect under President Mao is not longer, access to health care may still be difficult and problematic. During Mao’s time, it would have been impossible for workers to access health care in urban areas because they wouldn’t have been registered there.
Migration can cause labour shortages in the village, which may result in negative health effects for the remaining population, as they are having to work harder. The women left behind may also suffer from sexually transmitted infections as a result of migration. It is very common for migrant men to have a ‘city wife’ while away. Any disease that they may have picked up in this time will be brought home to their wife. Individuals both in the cities and the villages may also experience feelings of loneliness and abandonment that are detrimental to their wellbeing.
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The basic principles of migration health: population mobility and gaps in disease prevalence. Gushilak and Macpherson 2006. 3,3 Emerging themes in Edipedemiology.
On the move: women and rural to urban migration in contemporary China. Gaetano, Jacka 2004. 4 2004. Columbia University Press, New York.