[Marxism] China: Labor Power Shortage Looms

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at berkeley.edu
Mon Jul 3 01:36:11 MDT 2006

>NY Times, June 30, 2006
>As China Ages, a Shortage of Cheap Labor Looms
>Even within China, Mr. Zuo said, many foreign investors have begun
>moving factories away from Shanghai and other eastern cities to inland
>locations, where the work force is cheaper and younger.

But this suggests that the surplus population even on the
seaboard will not be soaked up. Facing shortages, employers
just move inland.

And while the greying of the population portends population shortage,
there does not seem to be one at present or or the horizon...even in China
which receives a disproportionate share of FDI.

Taking from Raphael Kaplinksy's analysis in Globalization, Poverty 
and Inequality (212-18),
I note the following points.

1. Employment in formal sector mfg even in China declined 15% between
95 and 2002.

2. There are 100 to 150 million people in China working at very low levels of
  productivity waiting to absorbed into the modern global economy.

3. Millions of workers in the state sector are not classified as 
unemployed but laid off
because they retain nominal relationship with their employers. 
Millions of people
remain on the books but are effectively unemployed.

4. The reserve army of labor is beginning to include skilled workers.

One should be careful about assuming that capitalist growth is soaking up
the surplus populations even in China.

We are looking at jobless growth which a host of special factors in 
China and the West
is at present masking.

I think the NYT is wrong to announce a looming population shortage.


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