1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policies for Inclusive and Sustainable Development

Migration and Health in China

  • Project from: 2011 to 2013


The last three decades have seen a huge population movement in China, which has implications for the health care system and related social welfare policies. This project aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of these challenges, identify knowledge gaps and examine the institutions, policies and politics that work in synergy to promote equitable, accessible, efficient and quality health services. The project also aims to build up the research network and capacity on migration and health in China.

The Research Issue in Context
In 2009, there were approximately 230 million migrants in China, with 145.3 million rural inhabitants having moved temporarily to cities in search of employment and better livelihoods. This movement has huge implications for the health of the Chinese population, the patterns and transmission of disease, and China’s health care system and related social welfare policies. These issues have been largely neglected by researchers, and consequently have not been adequately addressed by public policy—a major research and policy gap.

Research Objectives and Questions
The project aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of the health challenges associated with the massive rural to urban migration in China. The project will look at a range of topics including patterns and transmission of disease associated with migration; the health status of different groups of migrants as well as those affected by the migration process (for example, family members left behind and the receiving communities); the demand for and utilization of health care; the accessibility, quality and affordability of health services for different populations; the institutional causes of the health challenges due to migration; and policy implications and priority areas for bettering population health in the context of massive migration.

It aims to shed light on the institutions, policies and politics that work in synergy to promote equitable, accessible, efficient and quality health services. Through comparative analysis of international experiences, the project also aims to identify interventions that can further promote population health in China, given the unprecedented migration phenomenon.

Through the collaborative nature of the work, this project also aims to strengthen the research capacity of the Center for Migrant Health Policy (CMHP) and to support the development of a network of migration and health researchers in China. This work will lay the foundation for more in-depth empirical research and the promotion of policy dialogue on migration and health issues.

Key research questions of the project include:
  1. What does the analytical framework look like for the issue on migration and health in China, given the dynamics and complexity of the demographic, epidemiological, social, economic and political aspects of the issue?
  2. What are the current status, expected future trend and possible policy implications of public health challenges due to the massive internal migration in China by disease categories, such as infectious diseases, mental health, occupational health, and reproductive, maternal and child health?
  3. What are the comparative status and trend of health care utilization and access to health care among migrants, migrants’ families left behind and receiving communities?
  4. How do China’s social security, health and legal systems affect migrants’ access to social security, including basic standard of living, education, housing and health services? How do those institutional arrangements and social structure shape the social equity profile across different migrant groups, migrants’ families left behind, and the receiving communities?
  5. How should China carry out its health care system reform, such as health care financing reform, to meet the health needs of migrants, given the differences of health insurance coverage for different social groups, the roles that the central and local governments are playing in organizing, managing and financing health care services, and the nature of the patterns of the massive rural to urban migration?
  6. How effective have the policy pilots and programme interventions been in China in addressing the public health challenges due to migration? What are the lessons learned and what are the implications of those experiences for future policy-making and intervention practices?
  7. What are the key lessons to be drawn from international experiences in addressing public health challenges due to migration? What can be learned for China’s capacity building in health research and policy changes?

Methodology/Approach
Develop the analytical framework of the issue on migration and health in China; identify key thematic topics of the issue and collaborating authors of the papers and commentaries across different institutions and disciplines; facilitate joint research effort through providing technical support and efficient coordination; organize workshops to bring authors, experts and international communities together; communicate the research through project workshops, project websites and quality publications in collaboration with the Chinese counterpart, CMHP.

Beneficiaries of Research
  • China’s academic community, particularly the Sun Yat-sen Center for Migrant Health Policy, will be benefit from the project which offers unique opportunities to build up the research network and capacity on migration and health in China, drawing on academic talents and expertise internationally.
  • Research institutes, scholars and students within and outside China in the related fields will benefit from the project volume, which provides comprehensive analyses of the migration and health issues in China, covering analytical framework of the issue, extant knowledge as well as well knowledge gaps, policy implications and future research directions of migration and health in China.
  • UN agencies and Chinese government agencies will benefit from the research findings of the project. These would help articulate policy implications and identify key issues and priority areas for policy changes and intervention actions. The Chinese experience can help UN agencies in formulating their operational agenda in China, across the Asian region, and globally.

Outputs and Activities
  • The first workshop of Migration and Health in China Project, 28-29 June 2011, Guangzhou, China
  • The second workshop of Migration and Health in China Project, summer, 2012, Geneva
  • UNRISD working papers on migration and health in China, which will also be submitted for publication as bilingual research volumes.

Working Papers
A series of working papers are available from this project (see also under Publications in the top right box):
This project was funded by the China Medical Board and is a joint collaboration between UNRISD and Sun Yat-sen Center for Migrant Health Policy (CMPH) in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.