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Does China Still Have a Labor Cost Advantage?

  • Janet Ceglowski
  • Stephen Golub
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    In recent years wages in China have been rising and the yuan has appreciated, potentially eroding China’s cost advantage in manufactures. This paper explores the evolution of China’s relative unit labor costs in manufacturing over 1998-2009. Between 1998 and 2003 China’s unit labor costs fell, but since 2003 they have increased both absolutely and relative to US unit labor costs. Much of the rise in China’s relative unit labor costs can be traced to a real appreciation of the yuan against the dollar. Despite the recent rise, China’s unit labor costs remain low relative to those in most other countries.

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    Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3579.

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    Date of creation: 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3579
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    1. Adam Szirmai & Ruoen Ren & Manyin Bai, 2005. "Chinese Manufacturing Performance in Comparative Perspective, 1980-2002," Working Papers 920, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    2. Dennis Tao Yang & Vivian Chen & Ryan Monarch, 2009. "Rising Wages: Has China Lost Its Global Labor Advantage?," Economics Program Working Papers 09-03, The Conference Board, Economics Program.
    3. Rawski, Thomas G. & Xiao, Wei, 2001. "Roundtable on Chinese Economic Statistics Introduction," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 298-302.
    4. Bart van Ark & Abdul Azeez Erumban & Vivian Chen & Utsav Kumar, 2009. "the Cost Competitiveness of the Manufacturing Sector in China and India: An Industry and Regional Perspective," Economics Program Working Papers 09-02, The Conference Board, Economics Program.
    5. van Ark, Bart, 1998. "Productivity," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 171-174, June.
    6. Immaculada Martínez-Zarzoso & Felicitas Nowak-Lehmann D. & Sebastian Vollmer, 2007. "Competitiveness – A Comparison of China and Mexico," CESifo Working Paper Series 2111, CESifo Group Munich.
    7. Nanno Mulder & Sylvie Montout & Luis Peres, 2002. "Brazil and Mexico's Manufacturing Performance in International Perspective, 1970-1999," Working Papers 2002-05, CEPII research center.
    8. Edwards, Lawrence & Golub, Stephen S., 2004. "South Africa's International Cost Competitiveness and Exports in Manufacturing," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1323-1339, August.
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