In Shanghai, Open Arms for Some, But Not All, Newcomers

City presents different face to migrants, depending on status

James Farrer, Professor of Sociology at Sophia University, speaking in Mumbai on May 5, 2011

MUMBAI, May 5, 2011- Reflecting growth and migration issues faced by cities across the world, Shanghai continues to grapple with its mix of locals, migrant workers, and highly-skilled migrant professionals.

Explaining the political, economic, and sociological impacts of the diversity in Shanghainese society, James Farrer, Professor of Sociology at Sophia University, spoke in conversation with Gracia Liu-Farrer, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies in Waseda University, in a discussion on Immigration, Globalization, and Young China, as part of the Future of Asia series, presented along with the Mohile Parekh Centre.

In Shanghai, Farrer said, migrant workers are excluded from many social and economic benefits that locals enjoy, and are subject to arbitrary policing and human rights abuses. Meanwhile "New Shanghainese" comprise the desirable migrants, such as college graduates, that the local government wants to attract. This elite group receives most social and economic rights of local Shanghainese.

From attempts at assimilation to the frustration that ensues when assimilation is blocked, these legal and social dynamics have shaped the character of Shanghai — and foreground an issue that a majority of urban centres internationally will have to contend with as they chart their future.