Educated and Fearing the Future in China

Over the weekend, The New York Times website held an online forum over the topic of employment in China. Participants included: * C. Cindy Fan, associate dean of social sciences, U.C.L.A.; Yasheng Huang, professor of political economy, M.I.T.; Daniel A. Bell, professor of political philosophy, Tsinghua University; Albert Park, economist, University of Oxford; and Loren Brandt, economist, University of Toronto. From Yasheng Huang’s comments:

Some estimate that 30 percent of Chinese engineering students will not find jobs after graduation and that the average pay of the college graduates is now approaching that of rural migrant workers. At the same time, factories in Guangdong province cannot find enough labor. What is going on?

The idea that China is running out of unskilled labor is a myth. The news reports typically concentrate on Guangdong but this does not mean the country as a whole is short of unskilled labor. Development in rural areas in the past six years has meant that rural residents, previously denied economic opportunities close to home, now have a choice between going to Guangdong and staying in their hometowns. Many choose to stay. Any “labor shortage” in Guangdong is mostly evidence that the factories should not be located there in the first place.

March 9, 2010 11:33 AM
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