Shenzhen Special Economic Zone
The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (Chinese: 深圳经济特区), was established in May 1980, and is the first special economic zone in the People's Republic of China. Seven other special economic zones have since been established.
Until 2010, Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) comprised four of the nine districts of Shenzhen City in Guangdong Province, namely Luohu, Futian, Nanshan, and Yantian, with a total area of 493 km². In 2010, it was expanded to include the rest of the city, substantially increasing the geographical size of the SEZ.
Many manufacturers oriented towards export markets produce and assemble goods in the zone.
Before Shenzhen became a special economic zone in 1980, it existed as a small city containing only 310,000 residents and less than 30,000 workers. By the end of 2000, however, the population had grown to 4.33 million and its labor force to 3.09 million. By 2007, the official population count reached 8.6 million, of which only 2.1 million people were permanent residents, but it is difficult to estimate the exact population because of millions of unaccounted migrant workers, and the true population could have reached 12-14 million.
Less than 30 percent of the population is permanent residents. These are mainly state officials, entrepreneurs, technicians and skilled workers who have traveled from major cities. The other 70 percent are temporary residents, mainly migrant laborers from rural areas who lack official household registration and citizenship. The majority of migrants in Shenzhen are female. Pun Ngai, president of the Chinese Women Working Network and teacher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, suggests that the rapid economic development of Shenzhen and the advancement of its position in the global economy are dependent on extracting female workers from the rural areas, and considers this process to be a precarious employment system in which women face inhumane working conditions and receive low wages for extensive hours.
Advantages and disadvantages of migrant work
While Ngai and others are critical of the system that has been implemented, empirical studies suggest that migration may promote women's autonomy — specifically when considering unmarried women migrants. Although these women may face challenges and discrimination at times, they often gain freedom from traditional expectations of women's familial and social roles, primarily by being separated from older family members and because of the influence of urban culture.
Ultimately, migration can allow young women to feel more confident and self-aware whilst providing the opportunity to increase their own social status through the acquisition of savings and personal property. It also means that they can marry later than non-migrants, thereby avoiding marrying into agricultural families that support patriarchal traditions. In contrast, married female migrants are expected to continue living under restrictive gender roles.
While urban life may offer poorer schooling, many mothers still advocate this lifestyle because of the benefits that their daughters may receive, such as gaining essential skills to be successful in city life, and increasing quality of life through the development of self-identity. While these daughters have the potential to develop these highly desired skills, they must also face a variety of environmental factors and working conditions associated with this lifestyle.
Although some question the means by which Shenzen achieved economic advancement, others see the economic rise as an unprecedented "growth miracle" in human history. According to the World Bank, China has become one of the most important members of the global economy and a leader in international trade and investment, and its growth has brought more than 400 million people out of poverty. In 1997, Shenzhen was declared the national model city for environmental protection, and in 2002 received the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) award of Global 500 Roll of Honor based on the city’s efforts to yield gains concerning both the economy and the environment.
From this perspective, it appears that Shenzhen has been able to develop its economy successfully while preventing environmental damage. However, extensive environmental degradation has also taken place in Shenzhen; the rapid urbanization process has taken a large toll on water quality. Shenzhen also suffers from serious air pollution due to industrial emissions, high levels of automobile traffic and construction work. Since the development of Shenzhen has greatly influenced other economic zones within China, it is feared that similar effects may result in these other locations as well. While the implementation of environmental policies may reduce the severity of these consequences, it is predicted that mending the damage that has already happened will take substantial time and effort. All members of society must face the environmental degradation that has occurred; however, it is the migrant workers who face the harshest impact because they live in crowded and heavily restricted factory dormitories.
- China expands Shenzhen special economic zone Xinhua News Agency 2 June 2010
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