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China’s new lost generation: the casualty of China’s economic transformation

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  • Gary H. Jefferson

Abstract

China’s surge into global middle-income status over the space of three decades has been spectacular. However, a potentially large and burdensome cost has been imposed on a generation of adolescents and young adults who abandoned the countryside, and with it access to basic education, in order to seek the anticipated advantages of jobs in the country’s burgeoning urban-industrial sector. This large swath of off-farm migrants transformed China. It propelled China to the status of the ‘world’s factory’ and created the scale and accumulated learning-by-doing enabling China’s transition to a ‘knowledge economy’ that no longer depends on the labor of China’s new ‘Lost Generation.’ As the Lost Generation and its left-behind children, who suffer from a chronic lack of schooling, thicken the lower tail of China’s income distribution, it may be the rising, prosperous urban middle class that ultimately incurs the social, economic, and political challenges associated with China’s generation of off-farm migrant households once essential for launching China’s economic ascent.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary H. Jefferson, 2016. "China’s new lost generation: the casualty of China’s economic transformation," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 309-328, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jocebs:v:14:y:2016:i:4:p:309-328
    DOI: 10.1080/14765284.2016.1221725
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chang, Hongqin & Dong, Xiao-yuan & MacPhail, Fiona, 2011. "Labor Migration and Time Use Patterns of the Left-behind Children and Elderly in Rural China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(12), pages 2199-2210.
    2. Tony Fang & Carl Lin, 2015. "Minimum wages and employment in China," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-30, December.
    3. Mitali Das & Papa M N'Diaye, 2013. "Chronicle of a Decline Foretold; Has China Reached the Lewis Turning Point?," IMF Working Papers 13/26, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Barry Naughton, 2007. "The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262640643, January.
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