Mode and Timing of Immigration from Mainland China to Hong Kong: An Origin-Destination Comparison

Project: Research

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Cross-border migrants from mainland China to Hong Kong accounted for more thanone-third of the city's total population in the past 50 years. While the majority wasauthorized mainlanders via the one-way quota system for family reunion, unauthorizedimmigrants escaping from wars, famine, and social turmoil formed a significant portionof the immigration population before the 1980s.Although there is a large body of literature focusing on Chinese immigrants’ adaptationin Hong Kong, few researchers have paid attention to the well-being of unauthorizedmigrants, most of whom are well into old age now, and even fewer to a comparisonbetween unauthorized and authorized migrants. A comparison between the twosubgroups will address the issue of migration selectivity, as the unauthorized migrantswere assumed to be positively selected with the ability to successfully move across theborder while the authorized migrants were assumed to be negatively selected with mostbeing Hong Kong residents’ spouses and qualified children under age 14.The influx of migrant children, especially via the one-way quota system, caused publicconcerns about over-occupancy of educational resources and burdens to governmentwelfare expenditure. Little research, however, has been done with population-basedsurvey data to examine the impact of age at arrival for Chinese immigrants in HongKong, although the importance of age at arrival is widely acknowledged in migrationliterature.This project aims to fill in the gaps by examining the well-being (i.e., employment,occupation, earnings, health, and subjective well-being) of cross-border immigrants inHong Kong, focusing on the impacts of mode and timing of immigration(i.e.,unauthorized/authorized, and arriving at 14-/15+). While previous researchersmainly examine post-immigration adaptation by comparing migrants with theircounterparts in the destination country, the distinct feature of this project is its origin-destinationapproach to compare Chinese immigrants to both native Hong Kongresidents and stayers in the mainland, using comparable data from the Hong KongPanel Study of Social Dynamics (HKPSSD) and the China Family Panel Study (CFPS).HKPSSD include 4,109 Hong Kong natives and 2,843 immigrants from mainland. Amongthe immigrants 550 were unauthorized smugglers and 727 arrived at age under 14.Information on immigrants’ origin place in HKPSSD will be used to match their origincounterparts in CFPS (Guangdong sample) for origin-destination comparison. Both datasets include comparable measures on well-being. The study will also investigate theshort-term and long-term effects of cross-border migration using Hong Kong censusesand China censuses data since 1990.


Project number9042431
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/17 → …

    Research areas

  • mode of immigration , age at arrival , Chinese immigrants , Hong Kong , origin-destination comparison