Abstract：The Spring Festival, China’s most important annual celebration, is a tradition in which people return to their hometown and spend the festivities with their families. However, in 2021, large numbers of new COVID-19 cases across China prior to the Spring Festival, threatened the control of the pandemic, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 many local governments implemented the policy of “staying put during the Spring Festival” and provided different kinds of subsidies to encourage working laborers to stay where they work to keep safe.
But how effective was this policy in affecting people’s decisions to return to their hometowns? Did it merely encourage residents to return at another time, such as Qing Ming festival, rather than during the Spring Festival? If yes, what kind of policy is more effective in stimulating people to “staying put during the Spring Festival”. By answering these questions, with a descriptive, rather than emprical analysis of the returning behaviors, this study tries to analyze the effect of the policy on short-term migration both theoretically and empirically, and fill a gap in the literature.
Based on the principle of the maximization of profit and the minimization of risk from the new economics of labor migration theory, this study first explores how the policy and the pandemic affect people’s decisions by altering profit and risks of returning home, and then identifies and compares the-returning behavior of 37 281 533 subjects working in Zhejiang during the Spring and Qingming Festivals in 2019 and 2021 using China Mobile signaling data grouped with the policy of each county in Zhejiang. These in turn are subject to an empirical discussion of the role of the “staying put” policy on migrant workers’ returning behavior in different regions.?
The empirical results reveal the following : first, the proportion of workers returning home in 2021 is lower during the Spring Festival (45%) and higher during the Qingming Festival (176%) than that of 2019. In addition, the higher the proportion of returning home during the Spring Festival, the lower that of returning home during the Qingming Festival. These results suggest that people choose another time to return to their hometown; secondly, due to the higher risks brought by long-distance travel, laborers whose returning distance is longer prefer to return home during the Qingming Festival rather than the Spring Festival. In addition, the decision to return to the hometown is also affected by the industrial structure, population size, and economic development of work and home places; thirdly, regression analysis proves that the “staying put during the Spring Festival” policy encourages people to choose another time to return home overall. Further heterogeneity analysis indicates that the cash-incentive policy effectively prompts people to stay put during the Spring Festival and return home at another time, while the other policies do not have a significant effect. What is more, the policy is more effective for people who work closer to their hometowns, and an increase in distance will weaken the effectiveness of the policy.
In recent years, to relieve the traffic pressure from the Spring Festival’s mass migration, China has taken various measures from the supply side, such as increasing railway capacity and adjusting the train schedules. However, these measures have caused an enormous waste of resources on regular days. The results of study provide clear implications for alleviating the traffic pressure of the Spring Festival from the demand side, preventing certain social risks during some special periods (such as pandemics), and propose possible solutions to institutional and social problems in the process of urbanization. Nevertheless, to solve the underlying social problems behind the mass migration during the Spring festival, it is necessary to provide more measures to help the migrants integrate into the cities where they work and become a real part of the local society.
董照樱子 王晓亮 张蔚文 汤劲松. “就地过年”政策可以促进人们择期返乡吗？——基于手机信令大数据的实证分析[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 0, (): 1-.
Dong Zhaoyingzi Wang Xiaoliang Zhang Weiwen Tang Jinsong. Does the Policy of "Staying Put During the Spring Festival" Encourage People to Return Home at Another Time?. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 0, (): 1-.