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Cablegate: Hunan's Return Migration?

VZCZCXRO8254
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1760/01 1290800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080800Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7123
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2214
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 4334
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 001760

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV EAGR SOCI CH
SUBJECT: HUNAN'S RETURN MIGRATION?

REF: (A) BEIJING 1671
(B) GUANGZHOU 228

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Contacts in Hunan Province claim that rural-to-urban
migrants who previously had worked in factories on the coast in the
Pearl River Delta (PRD) appear to be returning home in greater
numbers than before to Hunan's countryside. The trend is not
necessarily a new one -- many temporary migrants without PRD hukou
resident registrations previously returned to Hunan after a few
years of work on the coast to start a business or get married. Our
conversations with Hunan contacts, however, implied that rural
residents may have less incentive to migrate in the first place
and/or may be returning home earlier than they might have otherwise.
The contacts cited both pull factors (improving prospects for
farmers because of rising food prices) and push factors (poor
treatment by PRD factory owners) as reasons for the returns, but
they acknowledged that they have no statistical data to confirm
their claims which are based on anecdotal information only. END
SUMMARY.

HUNAN PROVINCE: A MAJOR SOURCE OF MIGRANTS
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Located in Central China south of the Yangtze River, Hunan
Province takes advantage of its proximity to the Pearl River Delta
in the south to be a major source of rural-to-urban migrants who
seek work in Guangdong Province's factories. Estimates vary, but as
many as 13 million of Hunan's young people (roughly 20 percent of
the province's population) currently work outside of the province --
most of them in the PRD. Rural experts in the province say that 40
to 50 percent of average rural income in Hunan is derived from
migrants' remittances.

3. (SBU) Farmers remaining in Hunan's countryside often rent land
from departing migrants. For example, one flower and vegetable
farmer outside Hunan's provincial capital, Changsha, told Econoff on
April 22 that he rents 95 percent of the land he farms
(approximately 80 mu (53.6 hectares)) from farmers who have left the
countryside to work in factories.

ARE MIGRANTS RETURNING HOME?
----------------------------

4. (SBU) Contacts uniformly told Econoff during an April 21-23 visit
to Changsha, however, that rural-to-urban migrants from Hunan are
returning in larger numbers from the PRD as they compare prospects
at home in the countryside versus working in a factory. Some cited
pull factors in migrants' decision to return:

--Li Chong of the Provincial Foreign Affairs Office said farmers are
returning because of rising food prices and the elimination of the
agricultural tax;

--A pork farmer outside Changsha said his business is growing so
rapidly (Ref A) that he is discouraging his son from pursuing a
medical career and has asked him instead to return to the farm;

--Shi Wenxue, an entrepreneur outside Changsha, said there are many
business opportunities in the countryside for those with capital.
Shi said he prviously sold medical equipment ut returned to the
village to build a conference center and weekend retreat outside
Chansha.

5. (SBU) The migrants who return tend to be, like Shi, those with
capital to invest, as economic opportunities spread inland from the
more developed coastal regions (Ref B), stated contacts at the Hunan
Provincial Agriculture Bureau. In addition, many migrants with
special skills and those who are ready to get married are choosing
to leave the PRD, they said. A researcher at the Hunan Academy of
Social Sciences said that there also are push factors causing Hunan
residents to leave the PRD, including a smaller difference in wages
between inland and coastal regions and perceived poor treatment.
(Note: The plight of Hunan's migrant workers also was highlighted
during this winter's snowstorms when thousands of migrants were
stranded during Chinese New Year. End Note.) Our contacts said
they do not have statistical data on which to base their claims,
however, and out-migration will continue as farmers from poor areas
of the province seek economic opportunities in the PRD.

COMMENT: NOT A NEW TREND BUT MAYBE A FASTER PACE
--------------------------------------------- ---


BEIJING 00001760 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) The return migration trend is not necessarily a new one --
temporary migrants without PRD hukou registrations previously have
returned to Hunan after a few years of work on the coast to start a
business or get married. It appears from our conversations with
Hunan-based contacts, however, that rural residents currently are
returning home earlier than they might have otherwise. They also
feel there may be less incentive to leave Hunan in the first place.
End Comment.

7. (SBU) CG Guangzhou cleared this cable.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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