Since the late 1990s Chinese cities have been swamped with low skilled rural migrants living in marginal conditions. Their numbers are added to by the millions of laid-off workers resulting from large-scale industrial restructuring and enterprise reforms.
The resulting poverty problem is two fold:
- Migrants moving into the cities are disenfranchised from rights bound up in rural collective land ownership.
- Laid-off workers are disenfranchised from rights conferred by former state enterprises.
In both cases, there is a loss of capability to live at some minimally acceptable level (housing, education and other services being formerly tied into employment and land rights).
The new urban poor in China are confronted with systematic institutional constraints, discriminative policies and many administrative as well as economic and social assimilation difficulties.
Our research investigates the institutional determinants of urban poverty, looking at the urban growth-poverty paradox from the perspectives of institutional change and the property rights and entitlement reallocations affected by those changes. While there is an extensive body of literature on land rights and security of tenure among the urban poor, there is a lack of systematic research into the formal urban institutions that mediate the relationship between rapid urbanisation and poverty.