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Speaker: Dr Liu Jieyu (SOAS) 

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 ethnographic data from an UK Economic and Social Research Council funded project on ageing in rural China, this paper examines the extent to which rural-urban migration has reshaped experiences of familial support in old age and whether and how intergenerational/gender relations have been transformed by migration. It shows that older parents and women, in particular, carry greater responsibilities for care and agriculture often into their late 70s. Ongoing patriarchal and patrilocal culture limits the opportunities available to women compared with men. However, over time this may be restructured as younger generations of women migrate to work in the city and as greater educational opportunities are shared by both genders. The paper proposes a gendered and intergenerational approach to fully uncover the changing family relations in the context of migration.

Dr Liu is Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director at the SOAS China Institute. Her research interest includes gender, sexuality, family and generation in China. She is the author of Gender and Work in Urban China: Women Workers of the Unlucky Generation (Routledge 2007), editor of Social Transformation in China (Routledge 2014) and the co-editor of East Asian Sexualities: Modernity, Gender and New Sexual Cultures (Zed Books 2008). Her most recent project concerns ageing and migration in rural China, funded by UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).