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present, and (3) another definitional shift from 1997 to 1998 that has not been explained. The analysis presented here has shown that, even after adjustment for the definitional shifts, China has lost millions of manufacturing workers since the mid-1990s.

Published labor statistics for China continue to emphasize data for the declining urban state-owned and collective-owned enterprises, while neglecting the healthiest and most dynamic parts of the economy. This approach means that the employment numbers put out by the Labor Ministry and by the National Bureau of Statistics are becoming ever more irrelevant. In manufacturing, the action has moved to the private sector. In urban statistics, the booming private domestic, foreign-owned, and multinational manufacturing enterprises and corporations are lumped under the umbrella term “other ownership units.” Privately owned and family-owned urban siying qiye manufacturing businesses are ignored in the employment data from the Labor Ministry and the NBS, and the same is true of self-employed manufacturing workers in the cities. Yet it is the urban private sector that has seen ever-increasing manufacturing employment. “Other” urban manufacturing ownership units had only 1.35 million employees in 1990, but the number has grown every year since then and reached 15.82 million by yearend 2002. Meanwhile, the residual category of urban manufacturing workers employed in the privately owned siying qiye and getihu rose from less than 1 million in 1990 to 8.21 million by yearend 2002. It appears that Government statistical and labor agencies do not pay adequate attention to the private-sector manufacturing corporations and the small manufacturing businesses in China’s cities.

China’s employment statistics focus on the cities, while the expanding “rural,” town, suburban, and industrial park manufacturing enterprises all over the country are almost entirely left out of the statistics. Apparently, virtually all of China’s manufacturing enterprises and factories located outside strict city limits are lumped together under the category “town and village enterprises” (TVE’s). This term is a misnomer for all the employers, both private and collective, both domestic and foreign, of the 71 million noncity manufacturing employees in China who are referred to as TVE manufacturing employees. Most TVE’s were privatized by the late 1990s; therefore, the private sector has become important in employing TVE workers as well as urban workers. 90

In a holdover from the Maoist decades, the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for supervising and collecting statistics on all the industrial enterprises located outside city limits in China. In 2003, for the first time, one of the agency’s publications, the China Village and Town Enterprise Yearbook, published the number of TVE manufacturing employees in China. 91

Adding together official manufacturing employment numbers for the cities and estimates for the TVE’s suggests that China had about 105 million manufacturing employees in 1990, and the total increased in the early 1990s to a peak of 130 million in 1996. This large number may have included some overreporting of TVE manufacturing employees, along with the surplus urban manufacturing employees not yet deleted from the total urban manufacturing employment figures. After statistical corrections in both urban and TVE data, China was estimated to have approximately 112 million manufacturing employees at yearend 1998. The number declined to about 108 million in 2000-01 and rose slightly to 109 million by yearend 2002. All of these estimates are based on the supposition that there is no overlap between TVE and official urban manufacturing employee figures.


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