new “city” continued to be classified and reported as TVE’s; indeed, it may still be that no manufacturing employment or wage data from this new “city” are reported as urban.
Fortunately, of late China has been making a gradual transition to compiling statistical data on the basis of geographic locality rather than administrative subordination.38 Still, there appears to be no concrete information that can help quantify what proportion of the reported data on “urban” manufacturing employment and wages is actually from rural locations or what proportion of “rural” or “TVE” manufacturing employment or wages actually refers to manufacturing units located in cities.
A major statistical anomaly
China’s statistics on manufacturing employment suffer from an important inconsistency. The Labor Ministry concerns itself primarily with city employment, while the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for data on rural and town (zhen) employment. This division of responsibility is a legacy of the Maoist command-economy era, and it has not yet been corrected. Therefore, the Labor Ministry publication China Labor Statistical Yearbook concerns itself almost entirely with city employment and wage statistics; even within cities, the Labor Ministry focuses its data collection and reporting on the rapidly declining urban state-owned and collective enterprises. The Labor Ministry calls these data “urban” statistics. Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry collects employment and wage data from the TVE’s, including those engaged in manufacturing, and publishes the data in its own publications. It appears that there is no coordination between the two ministries. For example, in calculating total manufacturing employment in China, NBS and the Labor Ministry seem to ignore the Agriculture Ministry data from the TVE’s.
This problem is illustrated in table 1 and chart 1. The rightmost two columns of the table report Ministry of Agriculture data on employment in industry (gongye) TVE’s since 1978. This category is almost all employment in manufacturing. (The rest of “industry” employment comprises the two relatively small categories of mining and the production and supply of electricity, gas, and water.) In 2003, a Ministry of Agriculture publication reported for the first time the number of TVE manufacturing employees (for yearend 2002), and that number constituted 92.4 percent of TVE industry employment. Arbitrarily using that same percentage for the years starting in 1990, the far right column of the table presents estimated TVE manufacturing employment during 1990-2001.
It is important to note that TVE industry employment data had an abrupt definitional shift in 1997 in which the total reported dropped sharply, only to rise again the following year. Part of the jump in the number of TVE manufacturing employees in 1998 may be associated with the unexplained statistical loss of 7 million urban manufacturing staff and workers in 1998 as discussed earlier. In 1998, the NBS reclassified the group of directly reporting enterprises to those with annual sales revenue above a certain amount and exempted smaller enterprises.39 As reporting requirements were reduced for small and medium-sized enterprises in urban areas, 7 million manufacturing workers inexplicably dropped out of the urban numbers entirely and were not picked up anywhere in the official rural or in the official total manufacturing employment series. However, they may have been added to the TVE employment category, boosting its manufacturing employment numbers in 1998.