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Manufacturing & Industry

Surging wages threaten Chinese competitiveness

ADB_BuildingChina’s surging wages and costs are showing signs of undermining the competitiveness of the nation’s economy, threatening its growth potential, the Asian Development Bank said.

Average inflation-adjusted wages have more than tripled in a decade and non-wage costs for procedures such as hiring and firing have risen since the introduction of a 2008 labor law, the ADB said in a new report.

The labour market is being squeezed across China as the pool of working-age people shrank 2012. At stake is China’s position as the world’s biggest producer of low-cost goods, while competitors from Vietnam to Mexico stand to gain as investors seek to relocate to countries that have cheaper labour or are closer to big markets in the U.S. and Europe.

“Rapid aging of the population is taking its toll on the labour market,” Hamid L. Sharif, the ADB’s country director for China, said at a press briefing in Beijing. “Unless compensated by rising labour productivity, high wages would erode the economy’s competitiveness and growth potential, hampering government development plans.”

The discussion of wages was part of a broader report on the outlook for economies across Asia. The ADB projected economic growth of 8.2 percent this year for China, up from 7.8 percent in 2012, a 13-year low.

To prevent further harm to competitiveness China must ensure that increases in minimum wages don’t outpace gains in productivity, which should be fostered through incentives for companies to invest in new technologies, the ADB said.

Productivity Level

China’s labour productivity has grown quickly even as it remains less than 10 percent of the level in Singapore and the U.S., and about 20 percent of South Korea’s rate, Niny Khor, a Beijing-based economist for the ADB, said at the briefing.

Rising wages and other costs are being exacerbated by restrictions on workers’ mobility through the household registration system known as hukou, the ADB said.

“Key to reducing labour rigidity is reforming the hukou system. Steps are needed to reduce migration and transaction costs in the labour market.”

Changes in China’s labour market have occurred at a speed “unprecedented in history,” the report said. In 1990, more than 80 percent of urban workers were employed by state enterprises or collectives while by 2010 that fell to 45 percent, the ADB said.

China’s pool of 15- to 39-year-olds, which supplies the bulk of workers for industry, construction and services, fell to 525 million last year from 557 million five years earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News from the U.S. Census Bureau’s international population database. The number employed in industry rose to 147 million from 117 million in the five years through September.

Source: Businessweek – China Surging Wages Threaten Economy’s Competitiveness, ADB Says 


About Political Atheist

Living in South East Asia (Vietnam & Cambodia). At the ending/starting point of the more than 1000 year old SIlk Road.


5 thoughts on “Surging wages threaten Chinese competitiveness

  1. Reblogged this on CHINDIA ALERT: You'll be living in their world, very soon and commented:
    Despite the wage increase, it will be some time before China’s wages make producing medium-priced goods non-competitive. China’s policy is to drive its manufacturers up the value chain, away from cheap products..


    Posted by keeper @ chindia-alert | April 10, 2013, 4:56 pm
  2. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.


    Posted by OyiaBrown | April 10, 2013, 5:45 pm
  3. Reblogged this on Marcus' s Space and commented:
    The huge country which did not mind to steal the knowledge of others may be booming incredibly and ignoring its institutional amendments about equality between all people. As after the second World War in Europe thanks to the United States of America Europe may have had a growing industry with cheap labour force but having to get to expensive labour force because the governments tax so much, China’s labour productivity has grown quickly but over a few years they may face a big problem with an overproduction and people who will not take such injustice like there is now.


    Posted by marcusampe | April 17, 2013, 10:20 pm


  1. Pingback: The real cause and impact of China’s labour shortage | China Daily Mail - April 14, 2013

  2. Pingback: China factories kept open to give illusion of prosperity | China Daily Mail - December 30, 2014

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