From Female Graduates to Female Insurance Agents: Educationally Channeled Labour Mobility from Mainland China to Hong Kong

Research highlighted

Zhou, S. & Song, J. (2022). From Female Graduates to Female Insurance Agents: Educationally Channeled Labor Mobility from Mainland China to Hong Kong. Journal of Chinese Women’s Studies, 171(3). Available at:


In the increasingly interwoven global trends of educational mobility and labor migration, a growing number of young women have obtained higher education and acquired greater labor mobility, and have been involved in service work that is more professional and with higher job status. Nevertheless, educational mobility and labor migration are commonly regarded as two independent research fields. Education migration is often related to a promotion of employment opportunities for young people, which provides chances of social upward mobility for men and women. For labor migration studies from a gender perspective, female migrants are often found to concentrate in labor-intensive and low-paid service work. Little attention has been paid to the field where the two topics are related. In Hong Kong, due to the cross-border expansion of the insurance industry in recent years, many female graduates from mainland China have benefited from their cultural capital and cross-border social connections and have been recruited as insurance agents. This study examines the gendered experiences of cross-border labor mobility of these atypical skilled migrants and professional service workers.

This study adopted a qualitative research approach based on in-depth interviews with 32 female graduates who had mainland backgrounds and worked as insurance agents in Hong Kong. The study also draws on participant observation of their work and life, as well as online ethnography about how individuals and companies presented such cross-border labor mobility on social media. To examine women’s educationally channeled labor mobility, this study focuses on how they were recruited and why they chose to become insurance agents. The findings indicate that Hong Kong’s cross-border insurance business tended to recruit highly educated women with mainland backgrounds as professional, independent, and elite women, meanwhile with an emphasis on their patient and empathetic femininity. Such narratives restructured and reinforced gender stereotypes prevalent in service work. These highly educated women were able to utilize human capital and cross-border freedom to pursue greater autonomy in career choice against the control of natal families in places of origin. Nevertheless, these young women also faced a double marginality in the host labor market regarding gender and geography, and they still needed to balance family obligations and career aspirations over the life course. Women’s cross-border mobility helped them to pursue individualistic aspirations and negotiate new career pathways, which challenged traditional gender stereotypes in low-end feminized service work, but their professional and independent workplace images were still constrained by the gendered division of labor and structural inequalities in public and private spheres.

By focusing on female graduates in the cross-border insurance industry, this study demonstrates how the intersection of educational mobility and labor migration can provide new employment opportunities for highly educated women. To some extent, women’s cross-border participation in professional service work has undermined traditional gender role expectations, but their personal choices have not formed a fundamental challenge to gender and structural inequalities in the labor market and domestic spheres. Bridging the two research traditions on educational mobility and labor migration, this study suggests incorporating women’s education-based resource and horizon into the study of their working experience in the host labor market, and linking women’s diverse career choices with their evolving gendered self-positioning processes. The new perspectives can add to a better understanding of how women’s migration brings about new economic opportunities as well as social pressure, and contribute to a more comprehensive reflection on the gender and social implications of women’s evolving career choices.

Author Bio

Siyuan Zhou (周思媛),
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Ms. ZHOU Siyuan (周思媛) is a Ph.D. candidate in Gender Studies Programme and the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include gender and work, migration, and female entrepreneurship. Her doctoral project is about “doing gender” and “doing business” between Hong Kong and mainland China among female IANG insurance agents (Email:

Dr. Jing Song (宋婧),
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Dr. Jing Song (宋婧) is an Associate Professor in Gender Studies Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and an Associate Researcher (by courtesy) at Shenzhen Research Institute, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include family, gender, work, urbanization, migration and China’s market transition. She has published in China Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary China, Urban Studies, Journal of Rural Studies, Work Employment and Society, Population Space and Place, China Review, Journal of Sociology, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Housing Studies, Asian Anthropology, and so on. Her book Gender and Employment in Rural China was published in 2017 by Routledge (Email:

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun) Bian

Virtual SUPRA Programme

The Virtual SUPRA Programme is a four-week programme designed to develop PhD and MA students’ theses through supervision, peer review and academic feedback. The recipients also gain access to NIAS LINC e-resources and receive sessions on how to further their academic careers through public presentations, podcasts, publishing and social media.

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Access and thorough introduction to the NIAS LINCresources.
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Student presentations of their thesis work with feedback
Sessions on publishing and career development
Sessions on creating an academic presence online
Sessions on academic podcasts – what to do and what to say
Upon completion of the programme, SUPRA students will receive a certificate of participation.

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A dynamic research environment

With around 30 participants every year, the SUPRA programme provides students with an opportunity to spend time at a lively research institute, which also houses a team of cutting-edge postdoctoral researchers located within a leading Nordic university. While NIAS supports all areas of Asian studies, we are especially strong on contemporary and modern East and Southeast Asia. Themes emphasised by our researchers include geopolitics, democracy and human rights, climate and sustainability, food security, gender, and digitalization.


The programme runs four times during the Spring semester (following four weeks in either February, March, April and May) and three times during the Autumn (September, October and November). Please specify your preferred month of participation in the application form.

The application deadline for the programme in the Spring is 1 October. For a spot in the Autumn, the application deadline is 1 June.

The required documents for your application are:

  • The filled out application form (can be downloaded from the right hand menu)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Letter of recommendation from the supervisor of the thesis with which you apply for the SUPRA programme.

All students writing either an MA or PhD thesis are eligible to apply. However, students from institutions belonging to the Nordic NIAS Council (NNC) will be prioritised.

Applications should be submitted to:, with the subject line: Application for SUPRA programme [Spring/Autumn], [Year].

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Managing editor: Tong Meng

Call for Abstracts: Conceptualising Youth Mobilities amidst Social Challenges Workshop

Conceptualising Youth Mobilities amidst Social Challenges will bring together researchers with an interest in youth mobilities, from across the social sciences, for a one-day workshop. This workshop will be held on Monday, 28 November 2022, at Deakin Burwood Corporate Centre (BCC) and online on Zoom.  

The workshop welcomes all researchers who wish to share their scholarships and participate in discussions around youth mobilities. It seeks to provide an opportunity for attendees to build networks and connect with like-minded researchers at all stages of their careers, including early career and postgraduate. We seek to support research that has a connection to Australia. However, we also recognise that as youth mobilities research, this may likely include connections to places overseas.

We invite presentations that examine transnational youth mobilities amidst the social challenges of our contemporary world. What is the role of mobility in young people’s negotiation of social challenges? How might emerging forms of mobility (re)shape perceptions of adulthood and aspirations for youth transitions? How do young people construct belonging and place in a mobile world?

The theme of Social Challenges is particularly timely considering the growing knowledge of the challenges that young people face as society emerges from COVID-19 associated lockdowns; grappling with, in many cases, pre-existing issues including mental health, employment, racism and inequality, among others.  

We invite submissions focusing especially on youth mobilities. However, other topics we may consider are:
• Youth transitions
• Youth futures and aspirations
• Belonging
• Transnational ties
• Covid-19 and youth

Traditional academic papers and alternative presentations (e.g. creative readings, collective presentations, posters, etc.) are welcome. Please submit 200-word abstracts and 100-word bios via the Google Form by 5pm (AEST) on 31 July 2022. For questions or more information, please get in touch with Hao Zheng ( or Alex Lee (

Managing editor: Tong Meng

Stavanger-Lingnan Research Symposium 2022

International Mobility, University Governance, and Labor Market Relevance: The Nordic and East Asian Perspectives
31 October – 1 November 2022
University of Stavanger | Online

The dialogues on higher education development from Nordic and East Asian perspectives are not common in literature. Given the changes in Nordic and East Asian higher education development, the University of Stavanger in Norway and Lingnan University in Hong Kong will co-organise this research symposium and aim to introduce a cross-disciplinary, -sectional, -cultural approach to investigate the intersection between higher education, labor market, and social equality, and to provide insights into higher education systems and related public policies of two regions to tackle existing and emerging challenges in the current pandemic and uncertain futures.

Global competition for talented academics and deepened internationalisation are observed across cultures. This accompanies rising scholarly discussions, including, for example, new patterns of university governance and accountability and the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of an academic working and learning environment. Meanwhile, higher education has been continuously requested to equip students with enhanced employability to support an entrepreneurial and innovative knowledge economy, especially under/after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In specific, through the dialogue between the two higher education contexts, this symposium welcomes the abstracts covering the following topics:

  • Policies and regulations directing the dynamic changes in higher education
  • Graduate employment, graduate entrepreneurship, and transgenerational reproduction
  • Higher education in the context of regional innovation, digitalisation, and sustainable development
  • Individual perceptions and group experiences in a changing academic environment
  • International student mobility and wellbeing of international students
  • Internationalisation and transnationalisation of higher education: Comparative perspectives

Papers presented at the symposium may be invited to be included in a special issue on the topic “International Mobility, University Governance, and Labor Market Relevance: The Nordic and East Asian Perspectives.” The journal information will be posted in due course.

Keynote Speakers

  • Prof. Hugh Lauder, Professor, University of Bath, UK
  • Prof. Ka Ho Mok, Chair Professor and Vice-president, Lingnan University, Hong Kong SAR, China
  • Prof. Bjørn Stensaker, Professor and Vice-president, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Prof. Yuzhuo Cai, Adjunct Professor and Editor-in-Chief of Triple Helix, Tampere University, Finland

Abstract Submission

Please submit your abstract through the following submission link:

Important Dates

Deadline for submission: 31 July 2022
Notification of acceptance: 15 August 2022

Organising Committee

  • Ka Ho Mok, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • Dian Liu, University of Stavanger, Norway
  • Weiyan Xiong, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • Tatiana Aleksandrovna Iakovleva, University of Stavanger, Norway


We look forward to meeting you at the University of Stavanger or online. Should you have any questions, please contact Dr. Dian Liu ( or Dr. Weiyan Xiong (

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun) Bian

Call for Papers: Chinese Sociological Review

Special Issue on Growing Up in a Time of Uncertainty: Rethinking Education and Inequality in Chinese Societies and Beyond

Guest Editors

Anning Hu, Fudan University

Angran Li, NYU Shanghai

Duoduo Xu, University of Hong Kong

《中华社会学评论》是Chinese Sociological Review的中文刊名。本刊努力推动对当代中国社会的高质量、专业化的深入研究, 见证了很多年轻的量化社会科学学者的成长,现向海内外学界同仁征稿。

Growing Up in a Time of Uncertainty:

Rethinking Education and Inequality in Chinese Societies and Beyond

We are living in a time of tremendous uncertainty for our children’s future. The lingering COVID-19 pandemic, the rapidly changing policy environment, the foreseeable economic recession, and the clashing cultural repertoires, have fundamentally reshaped our educational institutions, generating long-lasting impacts on individual educational trajectories and outcomes as well as on social inequality and mobility. In Chinese societies, as in societies elsewhere, children, parents, teachers, and schools have to accommodate the unintended consequences of school closure, policy changes, and other interruptions during the time of uncertainty. Although new strategies and practices have been adopted to facilitate student learning, widening inequality impends to disrupt our educational systems and to leave many children behind.

Against this backdrop, Chinese Sociological Review (CSR) invites papers for a special issue on Growing Up in a Time of Uncertainty: Rethinking Education and Inequality in Chinese Societies and Beyond. This call invites authors to submit papers that consider various aspects of the relationship between education and inequality under a time of uncertainty in Chinese societies, preferably with a global and comparative perspective. We encourage submissions from various sectors, countries (areas), and disciplines. Both empirical (quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods) and theoretical studies are welcomed.

We are particularly interested in papers that explore the following questions:

  • What impact do the pandemic, policy changes, economic recession, and cultural shifts have on the future of primary, secondary, tertiary, and post-tertiary educational systems? How do these changes alter the existing educational inequalities and generate new ones at the individual, organizational, and national levels?
  • What are the macro-, meso-, and micro-level social mechanisms that can explain the emerging educational inequalities given the institutional transformations in response to those uncertainties?
  • What are the emerging strategies and practices adopted by families and schools that can help to close the gap in educational outcomes and build more equitable educational systems during the time of uncertainty?

We also welcome research addressing the following themes:

  • Chinese Meritocratic Educational Systems
  • Cultural Capital in Non-western Contexts
  • Policy Changes and Shadow Education
  • School Choice in Chinese Societies

Submission Guideline

Authors who want their work to be considered for publication in this special issue should email a proposal with a captioned title “CSR Education Special Issue” to and address to Guest Editors Anning Hu, Professor of Sociology, Fudan University, Angran Li, Assistant Professor of Sociology, NYU Shanghai, Duoduo Xu, Assistant Professor of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong, by August 31, 2022. Proposals should be about 1,000 words long in total and should articulate how the themes of the special issue are addressed.

The editorial team will consider the pool of proposals received by this deadline. Proposals will be selected based on their theoretical and/or practical contributions. Once been selected, the editorial team will invite the authors to submit a full paper (no more than 9000 words). Invitations to submit the full-length research papers will be sent out to authors by Sept 10, 2022. The full-length paper for peer reviews will be due on November 30, 2022. A workshop may be organized for authors to present their work and further improve their manuscripts. The special issue is expected to be published online before Fall 2023.

Chinese Sociological Review (CSR) (Print ISSN: 2162-0555 Online ISSN: 2162-0563), founded in 1968, publishes high-quality original works from sociologists and other social scientists. The mission of the journal is to advance the understanding of contemporary Chinese society and contribute to general knowledge in the discipline of sociology. All research articles will undergo a rigorous editorial screening and peer review process. The journal is intended for an international readership, now published by Taylor & Francis Inc. 530 Walnut Street, Suite 850, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

For more information, please visit

Managing editor: Tong Meng