Taking users of Taobao (the most visited on-line shopping website in China) as a sample, the number of users who migrated from one place to another can be calculated through an analysis of the changes of delivery address. Excluding those who temporally moved to another place on errands, visits and tours, a total of 27.15 million Taobao users actually migrated from one place to another in the 180 days from January 1, 2013, of whom 13.03 million migrated within a province, and 14.12 million migrated across provinces. 85 percent of those 27.15 million people were in the 18 to 34 age group, and 12 percent from 35 to 50.
Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong: still popular
Although in recent years, "fleeing" Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong has become a popular concept, the Taobao users' data show that these three cities are still experiencing an inflow of population. In 2013, 920 thousand people moved into Beijing and 900 thousand moved out; 870 thousand people moved into Shanghai and 860 thousand moved out; 1.53 million people moved into Guangdong and 1.49 million moved out.
Compared with 2012, the rate of population inflows to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong is falling, especially in Beijing. Statistics show that in 2013, the increase in the population there was only one third of the increase in 2012.
According to Qiu Zeqi, director of the Center for Sociological Research and Development Studies of China, the increasing population inflows to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong in recent years suggest that the first-tier cites still have an incomparable attraction.
As people become more reflective, the growth rate of population inflows to first-tier cities is narrowing. In an ever-changing life, everyone is searching for the place that is most suitable for themselves. Along with increases in housing prices and transportation costs, the threshold to settle in the first-tier cities is rising too. If it is too hard to maintain a satisfactory standard of living in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, more people will choose to go to other cities or return home.
Central and West China: receive more backflow
It is noteworthy that Fujian, Guizhou, and Anhui, along with some other provinces which used to be high exporters of labor, have had a sharp increase of population inflow. Many provinces, including Anhui, Hunan, Gansu, Shanxi, etc, transformed from population net outflow in 2012 to net inflow in 2013.
The increase in population inflow has much to do with economic development in inland provinces, which is drawing many people back to work in their home towns.
According to Qiu, the backflow is not a new phenomenon. It started in the mid-1990s. Over the years, waves of young people have migrated from central and west China to the east, while waves of older people have flowed back to their home towns.
But the makeup of the backflow population is now changing. Fewer young people are going back to their farms to work, but are choosing instead to settle in local towns or cities.
From working in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong to working back home, the increase in job opportunities in central and west provinces shows that the labor intensive industries are gradually moving to inland provinces.
Guangdong: migrant workers' favorite
Taobao data show that Guangdong is still the most attractive province to migrant workers.
According to Qiu, since the Pearl River Delta (located in Guangdong province, and one of the main hubs of China's economic growth) is still the major gathering place for large-scale labor intensive industries, Guangdong remains the most attractive place for migrant workers. But those migrant workers come and go quickly, which shows that the area needs to upgrade its industry.
The article is edited and translated from《80、90后，仍爱北上广》, source: People's Daily, author: Jiang Yunlong.