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Role of Money in Inequality and Rights

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1294 words Published: 15th Sep 2017

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Jonathon James Dunn

For this essay, I have been asked to describe how two of the module themes help to illustrate the role of money in society. The two themes I have chosen are ‘inequality’ and ‘rights’.

The idea of inequality can be applied to the subject of money to give a range of different insights. The presence or absence of inequality can be judged in relation to equality of opportunity, conditions or outcomes. Inequalities take many various forms, such as the ones based on social categories, like class, gender or age.

A study by the independent think tank ‘Inequality Briefing’ provides an explanation regarding the distribution of wealth within the UK. It suggests where the money should be in an ideal world, where we think it should be (based on polls) and where it is. It concludes that the actual distribution figures show that the richest 20% have 60% of all the wealth. This suggests the balance is not as fair as the majority think and emphasises the apparent inequality within UK society. *

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The theme of inequality and rights can also be shown concerning migrants and the right to education, with the example of the rapidly growing city of Guangzhou, the export capital of southern China. After more than 30 years of domestic migration in China, more than 10 million migrant workers are working in Guangzhou city; they are considered the backbone of China’s export industry. Guangzhou is one of the four mega cities in China which include Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.  In 1978, less than 20% of China’s population lived in the cities. The growth in China’s export industry resulted in increased urbanisation, and consequently, millions of people left rural areas ascended to China’s cities to find employment. This was at a time when the government was looking to convert broad areas of land and employ cheap labour in order to make products and to sell those products to the world. Now for the first time in history, China is a more urban country than a rural one. Despite the rapid growth in Guangzhou, a significant question arises; has everyone benefited from it?

With China’s rapid urbanisation driving its growing economy, the enlarging inequalities in the cities have received widespread attention. Evidence suggests, migrants have been made to feel excluded, isolated, and have suffered discrimination while also being blamed for increasing traffic congestion and urban crimes. Many people within the city are urging for reforms towards equality.

The growth of Guangzhou encourages, and enables, investigation of the impact that rapid urbanisation and a fast-changing economy has in the social world. Social inequality exists between the wealthy elite and the working poor in megacities such as Guangzhou and in this sense shows some similarities to the ‘Inequality Briefing’ statistics previously mentioned, regarding the UK’s wealth division.

Guangzhou’s rapid development is the result of a mixture of globalisation, the migration of people from the countryside to the city and investment into infrastructure. To achieve this, it had to take on massive debt. The issue of rights and inequality is none more prevalent than when considering migrants who are far poorer on average than those from the City. Of an estimated 14 million people living in Guangzhou, nine million are considered as residents.

The Chinese population is categorised as belonging to one of two groups – urban or rural – under a system called ‘hukou’. This system became a way of administering the distribution of state resources and controlling migration within the country in 1958. Under the socialist regime, people were provided with ration cards to buy food and goods at subsidised prices. Those individuals who were not resident in the place where they held their hukou status were not entitled to access these rationing cards. Migrants are only permitted to work in the cities with temporary residence permits and without an urban Hukou. This seemingly archaic system remains in place today.

Although movement between the countryside and the city has become much freer, people with no hukou in the place where they live face significant difficulties accessing jobs, education, healthcare and welfare. There are even recent signs that the growth of rural migrant labour is slowing down and despite the increase in the number of migrant workers during the past decade which reached an estimated 274 million in 2014, this growth has declined from 5.5 percent in 2010 to just 1.9 per cent in 2014. *

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The children of rural migrants are denied access to education in the city and are only entitled to free education in their hometowns. An article in the ‘South China Morning Post’ suggests “Some migrant workers put in 18-hour shifts in sweatshops, others sell vegetables, sweep the streets or labour in construction sites. Often that just brings in 5,000 yuan a month“- This means they cannot afford the fee’s children without ‘hukou’ must pay to study in the city. When you consider rural migrants have provided the workforce that has enabled the city to grow and prosper are not entitled to the same benefits as those who have lived in the city for all of their lives, a striking example of inequality emerges, especially as Ganzhou has particularly relied on the movement of these people from the countryside to the town. Being a full member of the UN, China are duty bound to ‘guarantee all humans a minimum standard of rights’.* It could certainly be argued that children of migrants face unnecessary hardship in accessing education, which could be against their human rights. Without a doubt, it’s been difficult for the government to maintain equity during this growth period.

The rising social inequality experienced by Chinese migrant workers in the Guangzhou is worrying. The governments comprise a strategy which should aim to balance economic growth and social equality and consider removing or altering the ‘hukou’ system.

Word count: 937

Wealth inequality in the UK
YouTube. (2017). Wealth inequality in the UK. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOJ93tAbPP0

China’s migrant workers embrace new opportunities closer to home
Equal Times. (2017). China’s migrant workers embrace new opportunities closer to home. [online] Available at: https://www.equaltimes.org/china-s-migrant-workers-embrace?lang=en [Accessed 28 Feb. 2017].

Under Article 26.1 of this universal declaration:
‘Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.’
(UN, [1948] 2015)

Migrant workers in Guangzhou hope to give their children a brighter future

South China Morning Post. (2015). Migrant workers in Guangzhou hope to give their children a brighter future. [online] Available at: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/1826842/migrant-workers-guangzhou-hope-give-their-children-brighter


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