The story appears on

Page A2

January 18, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Education

City dwellers overtake rural population

CHINA had more city dwellers than rural residents last year for the first time, a demographic milestone that also points to strains in labor supply.

As many as 51.27 percent of 1.347 billion Chinese mainland citizens lived in towns and cities at the end of 2011, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

Globally, about 51 percent of the world's 7 billion population live in cities, according to the United Nations.

In contrast, 30 percent of residents in India, the world's second most populous nation after China, live in cities while 82 percent of Americans are urbanites.

"It's a milestone in China's urbanization, but that's too early to say that China's labor supply is drying up," said Su Hainan, deputy head of the China Association for Labor Studies, a Beijing-based think-tank.

Rapid urbanization in China has underpinned its stellar economic performance as hundreds of millions of people leave rural homes for towns and cities to work. In 2011 alone, China's rural population fell 14.6 million.

But the rate of urbanization is slowing and dragging on labor supply, even though the massive shift of people to cities is far from over and will keep driving China's economy in years to come.

An aging population adds further strains. The number of Chinese over 65 is nearly the size of Japan's 122.9 million population.

Ma Jiantang, head of the bureau, said falling labor supply was key in underpinning a target of 7 percent economic growth between 2011 and 2015.

Analysts agree China's labor supply is dwindling, but there is debate about whether the country is near the Lewis turning point, a theory that wages in a developing nation start to surge once there is a surplus rural labor shortage.

Average Chinese salaries are already rising, albeit from low levels. Per capita urban disposable income rose 14 percent to 21,810 yuan (US$3,500) in 2011 from a year ago, while per capita rural income was 6,977 yuan.

Analysts say average salaries understate China's income gap, but that is hard to verify as China does not publish a nationwide Gini Coefficient, a measure for wealth divides. Ma said the government could not compile the coefficient because "we can't obtain the true income data of China's high-income urban residents."

But the Gini index for rural China, which is calculated, was 0.4 at the end of 2011, suggesting a middle-of-the-road income divide with 1 being most severe and 0 indicating equal distribution of wealth.

Su said even a relatively accommodative labor supply from rural areas wouldn't prevent factory and other wages from rising.

"Labor supply will continue to be abundant, but workers will be more demanding in terms of salaries and other benefits."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend