TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2017, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (2): 174-184.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.002930

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Spatial Difference and Contributing Factors of the Foreign Workers of Border Ports in Yunnan

LIU Yuli1,HU Zhiding2,GE Yuejing1,2a   

  1. (1.Faculty of Geographical Science,Beijing Normal University,Beijing 100875,China;2.a.Collaborative Innovation Center for Geopolitical Setting of Southwest China and Borderland Development;b.School of Tourism and Geographical Science,Yunnan Normal University,Kunming 650500,China)
  • Online:2017-03-05 Published:2017-03-05


The implementation of “the belt and road initiative” and the interpretation of its orientation of “facing the radiation center of South Asia and Southeast Asia” have created an important opportunity for Yunnan border ports. With the "labor shortage" problem, a large number of foreign workers have poured into Yunnan territory. Cross-border workers issue has become a hotspot in the field of anthropology, geography and economics in the western world, especially in the field of border study. Most researchers pay attention to the push-and-pull factors of foreign workers and its impacts on the local labor market. On contrast, cross-border issue causes a debate in the field of ethnology, demography and economics in the domestic literature. The main points are as follows: the influencing factors of foreign labor, the service and management of foreign labor, and its economic impacts on both two countries. It can be found that quite few geographers pay attention to the cross-border workers issue and the past study regarded border area as a whole area to explore, ignoring the spatial differences among different border ports. Consequently, from the view of geography, this paper analyzes the spatial difference and contributing factors of the foreign workers of border ports in Yunnan based on field research and questionnaires. Firstly, this paper summarizes the overall characteristics of foreign workers of border ports in Yunnan. In detail, first of all, the number of foreign workers shows an increasing trend. Secondly, they are distributed in a range of industries widely, and the different types of industries directly determine the frequency of cross-border labors. Thirdly, the educational level of foreign labors is generally low, which restricts their labor skills and wages. Fourthly, the employment path of foreign workers is single, and their legitimate rights and interests can’t be protected effectively. Subsequently, three characteristics of foreign labors and their spatial differences were analyzed, including the basic characteristics (gender structure, age structure, education level), job characteristics (cross-border approach, employment type, income level), and condition characteristics (living conditions, adaptability to the local environment). This paper concludes that the spatial pattern of the diversity of cross-border workers in Yunnan border ports is in fact the results of border effects, including both “shielding effect” and “mediation effect”. It is to note that human geography elements, such as development opportunities and hinterland supports of ports, foreign workers’ management and service system, the economic and political conditions of neighboring countries, and cultural and social differences, as well as physical geography elements, such as border types and traffic accessibility, contributing to border effects. Finally, this paper suggests that Yunnan should take advantage of political opportunity and pay close attention to the service and management of foreign workers. It would be good to change “shielding effect” into “intermediary effect” and rationally guide foreign workers to participate in the regional economic activity in good order.

Key words: cross-border work, spatial difference, border ports, Yunnan