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Shaping Rural Migrant Women's Employment: The Role of Housemaid Agencies

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Although since reforms rural-urban geographic mobility is no longer as much impeded by the hukou system, new institutional mechanisms have emerged that likewise impede the equal participation of rural migrant workers in the urban labour market. Given the daunting challenges implied in rural-urban migration flows, the burgeoning of labour fairs, job advertisements in the media, and intermediate service centres offer migrants some respite. Migrant women in particular can participate in the domestic service labour sector through the 'housemaid agencies', which often appear as ineffective, but may also offer significant possibilities for migrant women to find a job in China's cities. In this paper the author examines the activities and functions of these housemaid agencies and the role they play in shaping the employment opportunities of migrant women. Most of the information is based on fieldwork achieved between 1998 and 2001 in Beijing and Shanghai. The aim is to assess the extent of these agencies' benefits to migrant women's work opportunities.


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