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This report has demonstrated that manufacturing employment in China increased during the 1980s and early 1990s, peaked in about 1995-96, declined during the late 1990s until 2000-01, and increased again in 2002.

Future research priorities

The following areas should have high priority for future data collection in China and future research on Chinese manufacturing employment:

  • 1.

    Migrant manufacturing workers. Publicly available data on China’s manufacturing employees do not provide enough information about how many migrant manufacturing workers there are in China and where they are working. Yet migrants from the rural areas are fueling the country’s manufacturing boom, and there are tens or hundreds of millions more surplus workers in agriculture, some of whom could migrate to join factories in the future. Migrant workers help keep China globally competitive in manufacturing. Further collection and dissemination of information on China’s migrant manufacturing workers are needed.

  • 2.

    Rural manufacturing employment. Much better data collection and reporting, and much more research, are needed to try to fill in some of the missing information on rural and town manufacturing employment. Reporting is routinely more thorough for city manufacturing units in China.

  • 3.

    Conflicting data. More work is needed by China’s statistical leaders and by analysts of labor force data to reconcile and make sense of the conflicting sets of manufacturing employment data so far released. Communication, coordination, and better statistical oversight are needed among the NBS, the Labor Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce and with scholars who utilize China’s official labor force statistics.

  • 4.

    Labor force surveys. China needs to design, carry out, and publish results of labor force surveys using international standards and definitions. The surveys should cover the rural as well as the urban labor force. China has been conducting experimental labor force surveys, but most of the results have not yet been released. Reportedly, China will conduct a regular labor force survey in 2006 and begin publishing data from that survey.

5. National economic census. During 2005, with reference year 2004, China conducted its first national census of the economy. Results from this census are expected to refine, correct, and update data on who works where in manufacturing. The census “is sure to find that private-sector employment is much higher than currently reported.”92 When results of the economic census become available at the end of 2005, the new information should be used to update research on China’s manufacturing sector. 93


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