The emergence of the institution of mingongzhi and its implications for a unified labour market in China

Cherrie Jiuhua Zhu, Mingqiong Zhang, S. Bruce Thomson, Chris Nyland, Yue Guo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


There have been significant changes in the available workforce in Chinese cities due to the influx of millions of migrant workers as the consequence of economic reforms. Drawing on institutional theory, this chapter discusses the emergence of the 'institution of mingongzhi' (mingong means farmer-turned workers and zhi means system in Chinese) and provides a justification for applying the label of institution. Mingongzhi refers to a social-economic system under which certain people or social groups, known as mingong here, are socially excluded in urban areas of contemporary China. Based on the empirical evidence from the case studies and surveys conducted in Changsha and Haerbin, we found the existence of the institution of mingongzhi even after many of the barriers for rural migrants were removed by the central government. We argue that mingongzhi needs to be deinstitutionalized if China is to establish a unified labour market as advocated by the International Labour Organization and the World Trade Organization.& copy 2010 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThirty Years of China's Economic Reform: Institutions, Management Organization and Foreign Investment
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781608769087
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • China
  • Institutionalism
  • Labour market
  • Rural migrant workers
  • The institution of mingongzhi

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