China’s statistical system has been greatly strengthened during the most recent quarter century of economic reform.1 Statisticians in China are steadily learning from international practice as promoted by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations system. China’s statistical organizations endeavor to apply best practices from other countries--especially developed countries--to the Chinese economy. Their efforts have been particularly successful in China’s population censuses and in some economic and demographic surveys—for example, the annual urban and rural household income and consumption surveys. Nevertheless, China’s statistical system is still affected by categories and procedures that were established during the command economy period before 1978 and never revised. Those outdated categories hamper the analysis of levels and trends of economic growth, inflation or deflation, employment, wages, and economic change in the urban and rural economies. In addition, despite expanding its use of censuses and representative sample surveys, China continues to employ the method of regular (usually annual) statistical reporting by all production or administrative units as its primary data collection instrument.
Most statistics in China are recorded and collected under the central guidance of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to one source, “The NBS carries the responsibility for organizing, directing and coordinating the statistical work throughout the country.”2 However, as will be shown later, other ministries have certain statistical turf that is their particular responsibility for historical or bureaucratic reasons, and there seems to be little coordination among the relevant ministries. For instance, with regard to manufacturing employment statistics, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (hereinafter, Labor Ministry) gathers data on most components of the city economies, leaving a small, but rapidly growing, segment to the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. However, the collection of data and the reporting of statistics on manufacturing in rural areas and in towns are left to a part of the Ministry of Agriculture. 3
The analysis that follows is based as much as possible on information in Chinese sources published by official statistical organizations. The most useful sources turn out to be statistical yearbooks from various Government ministries. Later sections of this report compile and compare data on China’s manufacturing employment from the 1995 industrial census and the 2000 population census, as well as administrative data collected from manufacturing enterprises and reported annually. The report explains discrepancies among the data sets, to the extent possible, and discusses the effects of definitional changes on the available official series of manufacturing employment statistics. Strengths and weaknesses in the published statistics are highlighted.
Recent employment statistics
Employment figures for China are usually confusing and nonstandard. They reflect, in part, conventions from the Maoist command economy period from 1949 to 1978, as well as new conventions for the semimarket economy of the economic reform period since