Rural migrants and urbanization in ChinaThe definition of rural migrant workers used by the authorities in China is relatively broad and includes all people that still have a rural household registration but engage in non-agricultural work in their home area, or leave their home area for work for more than six months per year. The number of migrant workers, therefore, not only gives a good impression of the scale of the still ongoing urbanization in China, but also of the size of the workforce that left the agricultural sector to find employment in industry and services.
In recent years there has been a relative increase in migrant workers that can find employment close to their home regions. This trend is backed by the accelerating economic development of inland cities and the countryside in general. The share of rural migrant laborers that did not leave their home province for work exceeded 75 percent in 2022. In contrast, the economically better developed coastal regions in East China, which still attracts the majority of migrant workers, saw a drop in the total number of workers in the region. This trend is most obvious in the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas, which both experienced a significant decrease in numbers of migrant workers over the last decade.