After the homogeneous social levelling of the Mao period, Shanghai has recently become a more diverse society. Only 0.7% of its population was born outside China, but its social mix is deepened by influxes of overseas Chinese, Western and Asian expatriates and domestic economic migrants. Levels of inequality are now as marked as when the city was an international concession before 1941. 

Shanghai has a low fertility rate and an aging population; 17% of residents are 65 or older. Its growth is driven by inward migration, particularly from rural areas. This ‘floating population’ – about 4 million people – helps meet the demand for low-wage labour. But it also tests the city’s capacity for social inclusion and integration; ‘floating’ workers, lacking official status, often live in makeshift accommodation and have only limited access to social services.