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#Research Project

Internal and International Migrant Communities in the Pearl River Delta, China – Linking Informal Migration Dynamics, Global Change and Urban Health


Funded by: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Principal Investigators: Frauke Kraas, Bettina Gransow, Corporation partner: Tabea Bork-Hüffer (main contributions to the application)
Project Period: 2009–2011


The aim of the “PRD-3”-project was the development of a theoretical and comparative framework on the interlinkages of global change, national transition, migration, the changing urban social sphere and the emergence of informal structures in the mega-urban agglomeration of the Pearl River Delta, China. The research questions were:  

1.     How are different groups of migrants affected by the devastated social service system and infrastructure; 

2.     how do different stakeholders react; 

3.     how are different levels of administration reacting to this complex interplay of local, national and supranational agents;  

4.     how does this condition China’s social, economical and political stability? 

The overall 6-year research period was subdivided into three two-year-long research projects. During the first two year-phase with the focus on “Informal migrant communities and health strategies in urban villages of Pearl River Delta/China” the project achieved a deepened understanding of the complex and interdependent processes of massive megaurbanization and tremendous (partly informal) rural-urban migration into the PRD, the consequential emergence of migrant settlements – the urban villages – and the collapsed-health-care system against the background of China’s social and economic transition and global change. The second project on “Internal and International Migrant Communities in the Pearl River Delta/ China – Linking Informal Migration Dynamics, Global Change and Urban Health” extended the above-named overall research questions as follows: 

  • besides urban villages, a broader variety of internal migrant communities were included, with a focus on such groups that are highly at risk in terms of health (such as irregular migrants, migrants working with electronic waste, sex workers);
  • the analysis of informal dimensions of migrant’s access to health care was extended to other spheres of urban social services and infrastructure to better understand the mechanisms of informal dynamics within and beyond migrant communities;
  • international migrants in China from developing and transitional countries were integrated, as many parallels were found concerning their legal status and consequential access to assets;
  • increasing attention was paid to the role of local and international NGO’s and emerging new forms of governance related to migration and health in the Pearl River Delta.


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