A better life? Migration reproduction and wellbeing in transition

Catherine Locke, Heather Xiaoquan Zhang

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Mainstream theoretical approaches to migration and reproduction in Asia and elsewhere separate questions relating to reproduction from exploration of economic migration, leading to limitations in current understandings. The tendency to see migratory livelihoods in largely productive terms and to conceptualise the reproductive in terms of consequence or constraint neglects the complex inter-linkages between migration and reproduction in the search for a ‘better life’. Addressing these ‘missing links’ involves taking a broader approach to reproductive behaviour that factors in not only sexual relations and reproductive management but also social reproduction, gender relations between men and women and wider well-being. The transitional economies of Vietnam and China have experienced rapid growth in new forms of migration, in particular rural-urban migration that challenge existing presumptions about migration and reproduction. Not only does marriage migration in this context have strong economic dimensions, economic migration also has clear reproductive dimensions. Prevailing policy and popular stereotypes about how migration intersects with reproduction are being undermined by an increasing diversity of migrant strategies for building and sustaining their own families. Moreover existing institutional and policy constraints mean that these strategies often involve difficult and unpalatable trade-offs for individual and family well-being. In both countries the remaining household registration system and the related structuring of social entitlements lead to social exclusion of migrants and their families in urban areas, and perpetuate rural-urban inequalities, with outcomes detrimental to the well-being of current and future generations of the migrants who are trying to build livelihoods and meaningful lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-71
Number of pages21
JournalSociety, Biology and Human Affairs (SBHA) - Special Edition: Space, Movement and Health: Biosocial Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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