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What Keeps China’s Migrant Workers Going? Expectations and Happiness Among China’s Floating Population

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  • Wenshu Gao
  • Russell Smyth

Abstract

China‟s rural-urban migrants have been the engine room that has driven China‟s high rate of economic growth; however, their living and working conditions are poor. This paper addresses the question: What keeps China‟s migrant workers going? We seek to answer this question through examining the determinants of the happiness of China‟s rural-urban migrants, drawing on a large-scale survey administered across 12 cities in 2005. We find that expectations as to future income is an important determinant of happiness. This suggests that many migrants expect their financial position and, by extension, their lives more generally to get better in the future and that this is having a positive effect on their current levels of happiness. The effect of optimistic expectations outstrips any realistic increase in own income. We find that for those who expect a big increase in income over the next five years, this translates to an increase in average monthly income of 380 per cent and for those who expect a small increase in income over the next five years this translates to an increase in average monthly income of 200 per cent to obtain an equivalent increase in happiness compared with those who expect no change in income. This finding has important implications for economic growth and socio-economic stability in China given that maintaining socio-economic stability is important to maintain China‟s high rate of economic growth and positive expectations about future income are important for maintaining socio-economic stability during times of economic transition.

Suggested Citation

  • Wenshu Gao & Russell Smyth, 2010. "What Keeps China’s Migrant Workers Going? Expectations and Happiness Among China’s Floating Population," Monash Economics Working Papers 14-10, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2010-14
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    File URL: http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/eco/research/papers/2010/1410chinagaosmyth.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, July.
    2. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Gowdy, John M., 2007. "Environmental degradation and happiness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 509-516, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zhiming Cheng, 2014. "The Effects of Employee Involvement and Participation on Subjective Wellbeing: Evidence from Urban China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(2), pages 457-483, September.
    2. Wang, Wangshuai & Li, Jie & Sun, Gong & Zhang, Xin-an & Cheng, Zhiming, 2016. "Achievement Goal and Life Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Perception of Successful Agency and the Moderating Role of Emotion Reappraisal," MPRA Paper 72864, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Vinod Mishra & Ingrid Nielsen & Russell Smyth, 2014. "How Does Relative Income and Variations in Short-Run Wellbeing Affect Wellbeing in the Long Run? Empirical Evidence From China’s Korean Minority," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 67-91, January.
    4. Rongwei Chu & Henry Hail, 2014. "Winding Road Toward the Chinese Dream: The U-shaped Relationship Between Income and Life Satisfaction Among Chinese Migrant Workers," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(1), pages 235-246, August.
    5. Alexander Newman & Ingrid Nielsen & Russell Smyth & Angus Hooke, 2015. "Examining the Relationship Between Workplace Support and Life Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Job Satisfaction," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 120(3), pages 769-781, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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