[Marxism] Marty Hart-Landsberg on China (from pen-l)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 17 09:00:33 MST 2006


Many people continue to celebrate the Chinese experience, largely on the
basis of the country's rapid and sustained industrialization and export
successes. Some still call it a socialist success story, often on the
basis of Chinese party claims or Chinese foreign policy initiatives
which are seen as supporting Venezuela, Cuba, or other countries under
US pressure. Unfortunately very few people have actually looked at the
accumulation process underpinning Chinese growth, in particular its
consequences for working people. Paul Burkett and I have been doing some
work on this, and I want to share some information that I think raises
important questions about how we understand success and socialism.

The ILO has recently completed a major study of the Chinese labor
market. Its results closely match work done by the IMF and the Asian
Development Bank.

The ILO created five employment categories for urban sector workers:

TF is employment in traditional formal enterprises (state and collective
enterprises);

EF is employment in emerging formal enterprises (cooperative
enterprises, joint ownership enterprises, limited liability
corporations, shareholding corporations and foreign-funded enterprises);

EP is employment in small-scale private registered enterprises;

ES is employment in individual registered businesses;

IRR is irregular employment (which includes casual wage employment or
self-employment--often in construction, cleaning and maintenance of
premises, retail trade, street vending, repair services or domestic
services).

Looking at the period 1990-2002, the ILO found that:

TF Employment fell from 139.1 million to 79.7 million.

EF Employment rose from 1.6 million to 25.7 million.

EP Employment rose from 0.6 million to 20 million.

ES Employment rose from 6.1 million to 23.5 million.

IRR employment rose from 15.3 million to 95.3 million.

Thus almost all the urban job creation over this twelve year period has
been irregular.

Not only are growing numbers of Chinese workers being forced into
irregular employment, many others are suffering from outright
unemployment. According to the ILO, "A major consequence of the reforms
of the 1990s has been the emergence of open unemployment in China's
urban areas." More specifically, the ILO estimates that the 2002
unemployment rate for long term urban residents was between 11-13
percent. This is a strikingly high rate given that the Chinese
government counts as unemployed only those persons with non-agricultural
household registration at certain ages (16-50 for males and 16 to 45 for
females) who are capable of work, unemployed and willing to work, and
have been registered at the local employment service agencies to apply
for a job. And this rate has been kept down only by the fact that the
labor force participation rate of urban residents fell from 72.9 percent
in 1996 to 66.5 percent in 2002.

Marty Hart-Landsberg

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