This paper examines social inequalities present in Shenzhen, the China’s first ‘Special Economic Zone’. Shenzhen has grown from three hundred thousand to nine million inhabitants in just thirty years, opening its doors to foreign investment. The inequalities are due mainly to the possibility of acquiring a permanent urban stay permit - an urban hukou - which gives access to city services, better paid work and consequently an adequate housing market. Today almost three quarters of the population of Shenzhen consists of Chinese migrants who do not possess an urban hukou and are therefore excluded from the ‘right to the city’. The paper looks firstly at the labour market structure in Shenzhen and access to jobs in relation to the hukou system. It then shows the correlation between the growth of the city and the increase in inequalities. Finally, it assesses the presence of polarisation, the possibility of a middle class emerging and the ways in which inequalities manifest in spatial terms.
Keywords: Shenzhen; social inequalities; hukou