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It is unclear just what the TVE industry employment numbers actually mean and do not mean or how part-time or part-year employees are treated in the data. Therefore, it is unclear whether TVE industry employee numbers are overstated, understated, or about right. Nevertheless, the TVE data must be considered in evaluating China’s manufacturing employment levels and trends, and evidence discussed in the remainder of this article argues for using those data, rather than the official series on rural manufacturing employment, to estimate noncity manufacturing employment in China. In addition, the TVE data provide the only figures on rural wages, and those wages must be used in constructing wage and compensation estimates for all of China.

The column giving data on total manufacturing employment in table 1 does not include all the reported TVE manufacturing employees. How do we know this? The reason is that all or almost all of the reported “urban” manufacturing employees in China are not in TVE’s. The category of urban “staff and workers” explicitly excludes all TVE employees.40 The rules about how to report the “other” urban enterprise employees that, together with staff and workers, constitute “employment in urban units” do not say anything explicit about TVE’s. 41

It may be that some of the residual 8.21 million “urban” manufacturing employees who were self-employed or who worked in private enterprises in 2002 also were called TVE employees, but this overlapping of categories appears unlikely, given the way urban and rural employment data for China are reported.42 These workers are in cities, whereas TVE manufacturing employees generally work outside the cities, in rural areas and in towns. In fact, instructions for filling out China’s labor force survey specifically state, “TVE employees are only those who work in enterprises located in rural townships and villages.”43 Among manufacturing workers in 2002, there were 21.35 million employees in private enterprises (siying qiye) or in individual or family enterprises (geti duzi qiye). Of these, 8.21 million were in the cities, while 13.14 million were classified as “rural,” meaning noncity; it is likely that the latter group was included in 2002 TVE manufacturing employment and wage statistics. 44

If the 29.81 million manufacturing employees working in urban units at yearend 2002 are subtracted from the total manufacturing employment figure for the same year (table 1), the result is 53 million manufacturing employees who could be working in TVE’s. Yet the Agriculture Ministry reported 70.87 million TVE employees in manufacturing that year. (See table 1.)

Chart 2 graphs two different estimates of total manufacturing employment in China. The “reported” series is that constructed by the NBS and the Labor Ministry and titled “Total manufacturing employment” in table 1. The series titled “Urban and TVE” in the chart assumes that the columns for derived urban manufacturing employment (referring to cities) and TVE manufacturing employment (referring primarily to towns and villages--the rightmost column in the table) are mutually exclusive and do not overlap; the chart series is the sum of those two sets of data. (Data from the two series in Chart 2 are given in table 4.) Both series indicate that (1) total manufacturing employment in China peaked in the mid-1990s; (2) there was a slow decline in Chinese manufacturing employment in the late 1990s; and (3) beginning in 2001 or 2002, there was a slight increase in national manufacturing employment. (Note that there were definitional shifts in TVE industry employment data, and then in urban manufacturing employment data, from 1996 to 1998.)


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