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(Chinese-foreign) ownership, shareholding stock ownership, limited-liability corporations, and foreign-owned enterprises.21 What these numbers appear to mean is the following:

  • China’s manufacturing is becoming less bloated with surplus workers over time;

  • The number of manufacturing workers (however defined or adjusted) in China has declined somewhat since 1995;

  • Urban State-owned and urban collective-owned enterprises have shown steep

declines in numbers of manufacturing workers since the mid-1990s;

  • So-called rural manufacturing is still growing; and

  • Urban private-sector manufacturing employment is expanding.

Research by Thomas Rawski helps us understand what is going on in some parts of China’s manufacturing sector. Rawski documented the decline in urban staff and worker manufacturing employment in China from 1993 to 2002. Utilizing detailed data from several engineering sectors producing widely used industrial components, he showed a 52-percent increase in labor productivity (value added per worker) in the short period from 1996 to 2000, while employment in these sectors dropped steeply by the year 2000, to 63 percent of the 1996 numbers, and output was nearly stagnant. According to Rawski, “These data reveal industries in the throes of restructuring rather than dynamic growth.”22 China’s manufacturing sector is shedding surplus workers and becoming more productive and competitive. Meanwhile, Rawski pointed out, laid-off manufacturing workers in China and in developed countries such as the United States and Japan are experiencing similar dislocations in their personal and family lives.

The U.S. Conference Board has emphasized that China is losing many more manufacturing jobs than the developed world (including the United States) is--and in many of the same industries in which the developed world has seen the greatest declines.23 Manufacturing industries in China with the greatest job losses during 1995- 2002 were textiles, steel processing, machinery, and nonmetal mineral products. China’s manufacturing job losses can be traced to the restructuring of extraordinarily inefficient state-owned and urban collective-owned factories and to rapidly advancing labor productivity. 24 25

The next five sections of this study delve more deeply into some of the topics raised in the foregoing analysis. Enterprise employment data are contrasted with data from the 2000 population census, supporting the conclusion that the enterprise reports undercount millions of manufacturing workers. Then the problematic categories of urban and rural manufacturing workers are explored in more detail, leading to a statistical anomaly that goes further into the data on the TVE’s. Finally, key export regions are examined and migrant manufacturing workers are discussed, because many of China’s manufacturing workers have migrated into the export zones in search of jobs and there is some evidence that they are not well enumerated in China’s labor statistics.


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