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Surplus labour and productivity in Chinese agriculture: Evidence from household survey data

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  • Sarah Cook

Abstract

This study investigates whether the concept of surplus labour adequately characterises the labour conditions facing rural Chinese households, and the implications of such a surplus for household labour allocation. Using household survey data from one county in north China, we first estimate the marginal products of labour in agricultural and non-agricultural activities; these are compared with the returns to labour in other activities. The marginal returns to agricultural labour are found to be a fraction of those to non-agricultural labour, consistent with the existence of surplus labour and constraints on labour mobility. Investigation of the variation in marginal returns across activities and households illustrates the importance of village characteristics and household endowments, including demographic composition and political connections, in determining a household's capacity to transfer labour out of agriculture.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah Cook, 1999. "Surplus labour and productivity in Chinese agriculture: Evidence from household survey data," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(3), pages 16-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:35:y:1999:i:3:p:16-44
    DOI: 10.1080/00220389908422572
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Putterman, Louis, 1993. "Continuity and Change in China's Rural Development: Collective and Reform Eras in Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195078725.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zhang, Linxiu & Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott, 2003. "Employment, Recessions, and the Role of Education in Rural China," Working Papers 225888, University of California, Davis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    2. Thomas Vendryes, 2011. "Migration constraints and development: Hukou and capital accumulation in China," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00783794, HAL.
    3. Stephan Brosig & Thomas Glauben & Thomas Herzfeld & Scott Rozelle & Xiaobing Wang, 2007. "The dynamics of Chinese rural households' participation in labor markets," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 37(2-3), pages 167-178, September.
    4. Wang, Xiaobing & Yamauchi, Futoshi & Otsuka, Keijiro & Huang, Jikun, 2016. "Wage Growth, Landholding, and Mechanization in Chinese Agriculture," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 30-45.
    5. SHI, Xiaoping & Heerink, Nico & Qu, Futian, 2007. "Choices between different off-farm employment sub-categories: An empirical analysis for Jiangxi Province, China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 438-455.
    6. Wang, Xiaobing & Herzfeld, Thomas & Glauben, Thomas, 2007. "Labor allocation in transition: Evidence from Chinese rural households," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 287-308.
    7. Jones, Sam & Tarp, Finn, 2013. "Jobs and Welfare in Mozambique," WIDER Working Paper Series 045, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    8. Xia, Qingjie & Simmons, Colin, 2004. "Diversify and prosper: Peasant households participating in emerging markets in northeast rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 375-397.
    9. BROSIG, Stephan & GLAUBEN, Thomas & Herzfeld, Thomas & WANG, Xiaobing, 2009. "Persistence of full- and part-time farming in Southern China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 360-371, June.
    10. Vendryes, Thomas, 2011. "Migration constraints and development: Hukou and capital accumulation in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 669-692.
    11. Glauben, Thomas & Herzfeld, Thomas & Wang, Xiaobing, 2005. "Labor Market Participation of Chinese Agricultural Households," 2005 International Congress, August 23-27, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark 24516, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    12. Deininger, Klaus & Jin, Songqing & Xia, Fang & Huang, Jikun, 2014. "Moving Off the Farm: Land Institutions to Facilitate Structural Transformation and Agricultural Productivity Growth in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 505-520.
    13. Ya Ping Wang & Yanglin Wang & Jiansheng Wu, 2009. "Urbanization and Informal Development in China: Urban Villages in Shenzhen," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(4), pages 957-973, December.
    14. repec:ilo:ilowps:420406 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Kuiper, Marijke & van Tongeren, Frank, 2005. "Growing together or growing apart ? a village level study of the impact of the Doha Round on rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3696, The World Bank.

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