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Who is Better Off from Trade Liberalization? An Experience from Urban China


  • Yin He


Empirical studies have found that the skill wage gap (difference between wages earned by skilled and unskilled workers) narrowed in the case of the 'Four Asian Dragons' as they underwent trade liberalization during the 1960s and 1970s, whereas the gap widened in most of the Latin American countries after they liberalized their economies in the 1980s. China's integration into the world economy since 1978 has been used to explain this phenomenon, but few formal studies have been carried out in China regarding the effects of trade liberalization on the skill wage gap because of the limited availability of data. The present study uses unique household surveys conducted in ten provinces of China in 1988 and 1995 to study this issue. Results show that trade liberalization that occurred in China between 1988 and 1995 was responsible for an average increase of 28.73 yuan (approximately 20 percent of the total increase) in average monthly wages. However, trade liberalization significantly widened the urban skill wage gap in China by introducing an increase in income only for those who had 13 years or more of education (at least junior high school graduates). Interestingly, import liberalization also only benefited those who had more than 9 years of schooling; whereas export liberalization brought wage increases for people with 7-12 years of education. Finally, those with specific production skills from technical schools, rather than those with several years of general education, were mostly favored in the labor market in China between 1988 and 1995. Copyright 2007 The Author Journal compilation 2007 East Asian Economic Association and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. .

Suggested Citation

  • Yin He, 2007. "Who is Better Off from Trade Liberalization? An Experience from Urban China ," Asian Economic Journal, East Asian Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 283-299, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:asiaec:v:21:y:2007:i:3:p:283-299

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