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To return or stay? The gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrant workers in China

This paper examines the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chinese migrants who had returned to their hometowns for the Spring Festival before the Wuhan lockdown, using data from a recent nationally representative survey. The study finds that women migrants were less likely than men migrants to return to the cities and also less likely to return to paid work after the pandemic outbreak. It also finds that having a preschool-age child had a strong negative effect on women migrants’ employment decisions, but it had no effect on men migrants’ decisions. These results expand the literature on the economic vulnerabilities of Chinese migrant workers. More importantly,~the findings indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a setback in the~progress made in pre-pandemic times in advancing Chinese rural women’s position in the labor market.

Highlights

  • The COVID-19 pandemic had negative employment consequences for Chinese migrant workers.

  • Women migrants were the hardest hit and more likely to withdraw from migration flows and paid work.

  • Women’s caregiving roles and employment in face-to-face services are the main causes of their withdrawal.

  • The pandemic has reinforced traditional gender roles and heightened labor market inequalities.

Yueping, S., Hantao, W., Xiao-yuan, D., & Zhili, W. (2020). To Return or Stay? The Gendered Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Migrant Workers in China. Feminist Economics, 1-18.

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