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Liu, Jieyu (2014) 'Ageing, migration and familial support in rural China.' Geoforum, 51. pp. 305-312.

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Accelerated by economic reforms, a large scale migration of younger workers from rural to urban China has taken place since the 1990s. This has separated many adult children from their ageing parents and imposed significant challenges on traditional patterns of familial support for rural older people. These challenges are augmented by the fact that in rural China the elderly have been deprived a state pension and other welfare provisions available to urban residents. Drawing upon qualitative data from a project on ageing in rural China, this article examines the agency of older people and their families in responding to geographical separation resulting from the migration of the economically active to the cities. Through 32 life history interviews with multiple generations of nine households in one rural village, this article sheds light on the resilience and flexibility of rural households which have experienced migration and highlights the webs of interdependence that feature in the daily strategies of householding. It shows how members of the household across different geographical locations worked together to build and maintain the collective welfare of the family. In particular, this article argues that it would be over simplistic to suggest that migration is always detrimental to the older generation who stay behind. Contrary to assumptions in some migration studies and ageing literature in China, it shows that it is the breakdown of the webs of interdependence and reciprocity rather than the event of migration that will have inevitable negative effects upon old age care for the seniors in the household. Further, while highlighting the significance of householding, this article reveals the internal dynamics within a household. It identifies the role of gender in daily householding and suggests that the caring, supportive and kin-keeping roles performed mainly by women played a critical role in ensuring social and physical reproduction across generations. The article finds that while daughters took over some responsibilities which were traditionally expected from their brothers and sisters-in-law in old age support, the persistence of gendered practices and traditions in rural villages allowed sons more symbolic status and material benefits.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: intergenerational relations, gender, migration, rural China
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS China Institute
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ISSN: 00167185
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2016 21:18

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