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On the basis of China’s urban manufacturing employment data (see table 1 and chart 1), 13 million urban manufacturing workers remain in public-sector (state-owned and urban collective-owned) work units. Thus, the private sector now employs 25 million of China’s reported 38 million urban manufacturing workers.14 Private-sector manufacturing workers are counted, and their numbers are reported, but otherwise, far less information is published about the private sector than the public sector.

Because of the city bias of employment statistics in China, there are almost no further readily available details about the 45 million rural or 71 million TVE manufacturing employees. This information gap is the biggest weakness of China’s statistics on manufacturing employment. (The report returns to the problematic classifications of urban and rural statistics in a later section.)

Reported trends in manufacturing employment

As shown in table 1, the officially reported number of employed manufacturing workers in China rose dramatically during the post-Mao economic reform period, from 53 million in 1978 to an all-time high of 98 million in 1995, declined sharply to 80 million in 2000, and then rose again to 83 million by yearend 2002. Rural manufacturing employment has risen with few setbacks throughout this 24-year period, peaking at a reported 45 million as of the end of 2002. The difference between China’s reported national and rural manufacturing employment should be urban manufacturing employment; but this number was not published for a number of years, and the column in table 1 is derived as a residual calculation. The figures so derived indicate that urban manufacturing employment in China rose from 36 million in 1978 to a high of 58 million in 1994-95 and then dropped to 38 million by yearend 2002. A figure of 38.018 million for urban manufacturing employment is directly reported in a published table.15 Therefore, the procedure used to derive urban manufacturing employment in table 1 appears to be defensible. Employment in urban manufacturing units reportedly dropped from 55 million in 1994-95 to 30 million by yearend 2002, and total urban manufacturing staff and workers increased from 36 million in 1978 to 55 million in 1992-93, thereafter declining to 29 million by the end of 2002, on the basis of the reported statistics in table 1. These employment trends based on the official data, however, are misleading. The next two sections discuss changes in definition and coverage that affect the available manufacturing employment statistics and the trends in manufacturing employment during 1990-2002 after adjusting for the changes to the extent possible.

Change in the definition of urban employed

What do the preceding numbers mean? In the first place, successive figures are sometimes not comparable due to changes in coverage or redefinition. In particular, the number for implied urban manufacturing employment dropped sharply, from 55.8 million at the end of 1997 to 43.9 million at yearend 1998, an apparent decline of 12 million in 1 year. A similar drop is shown for manufacturing employment in urban units, from 51.3 million at the end of 1997 to 38.3 million at the end of 1998, and thus down 13 million


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