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Examining Determinants of Foreign Wage Premiums in China

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  • Theresa M. Greaney
  • Yao Li

Abstract

We estimate foreign ownership wage premiums for every 3-digit manufacturing industry in China and discover a wide range of premiums both for so-called "foreign" ownership and for overseas Chinese ownership of firms. Foreign ownership generates larger and more prevalent wage premiums than overseas Chinese ownership of firms, but both types of foreign ownership produce wage premiums that respond similarly in hypothesis testing of determinants. Using the number of computers per worker as an indicator of a firm’s technology level, we find support in 76-78% of industries for the hypothesis that foreign firms pay higher wages to reduce the risk of worker turnover and the accompanying technology leakage to domestic rivals. However, this determinant explains only 5-6% of the foreign wage premium, on average. We find the most intensive support for the "fair wage" hypothesis that foreign firms pay higher wages because they are more profitable than domestic firms and workers in more profitable firms expect to be paid more, otherwise they will shirk. This hypothesis explains an average of 8-9% of the foreign wage premiums, with support for the hypothesis found in 72-75% of the industries using firm’s total profits per worker as the added wage determinant. Intangible assets and training costs were found to be much weaker individual determinants of foreign wage premiums. When we consider the best combination of explanatory variables to include in each industry’s wage regression, we find support for our combined hypotheses in the vast majority of industries, but we still find large residual wage premiums attached to foreign ownership in China.
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Suggested Citation

  • Theresa M. Greaney & Yao Li, 2017. "Examining Determinants of Foreign Wage Premiums in China," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(10), pages 2056-2077, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:40:y:2017:i:10:p:2056-2077
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    Cited by:

    1. Greaney, Theresa M. & Li, Yao, 2017. "Multinational enterprises and regional inequality in China," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 120-133.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • F66 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Labor
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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