Thursday, May 07, 2009

Young female migrant workers in China and health information

Major findings
- Premarital sex is no longer taboo and norms and behaviours are changing. “There is
nothing wrong with premarital sex, as long as they like each other and feel happy together”
(Shanghai, focus group discussion). Most young women believed that premarital sex is acceptable.
However, they expressed concern about the social consequences of unwanted pregnancy.

- Premarital sexual experience is reportedly uncommon. Most of the young women knew
someone who was living with her boyfriend, but few admitted they had had premarital sex.
Those who did, only admitted to a sexual relationship with a “husband-to-be”.

-Knowledge about, and use of, contraceptives is low. Most sexually active women had never used contraception and few knew where to obtain them. A 20-year-old unmarried woman who had had an induced abortion thought that it was ‘just bad luck’ to get pregnant after occasional, contraception-free intercourse over a period of two years.

- Unwanted pregnancy and induced abortion are not uncommon among the sexually active. If
an early marriage cannot be arranged the pregnancy ends in induced abortion. Providers reported that migrant women were more likely than non-migrants to delay seeking abortion and to experience multiple abortions. They were also more likely to resort to private—and usually unqualified—providers believing their confidentiality would be better protected.

Conclusions and policy recommendations
• Some young female migrant workers are sexually active, but they lack basic knowledge of contraception and reproduction. Moreover they do not know where to obtain contraception or are too embarrassed to try. Induced abortion or a hasty marriage are the only options in case of pregnancy.
• Young unmarried migrants do not use family planning service facilities although in theory these
services are available to all women. Government family planning education programmes or information materials do not reach migratory women.
• Urgent measures are needed to make reproductive health information and services in urban areas accessible to young migrant workers. Policy recommendations include the following:
– When newly arriving migrants register in cities, the registration offices could provide them with information regarding family planning as well as location of the services.
– Employers of migrant workers could disseminate pamphlets provided by the local government
family planning or health departments; they could also provide reproductive health services in
the medical clinics at the place of work.
– Urban family planning workers could visit workplaces and residences with a large number of
migrants in order to offer information and services for family planning and reproductive health.

From "UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, World Health Organization" report, May 2002.


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