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Improving or Disappearing: Firm-Level Adjustments to Minimum Wages in China

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  • Florian Mayneris

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) and Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE))

  • Sandra Poncet

    (Paris School of Economics (University of Paris 1), CEPII and FERDI)

  • Tao Zhang

    (Shanghai University of International Business and Economics)

Abstract

We here consider how Chinese firms react to higher minimum wages, exploiting the 2004 minimum-wage Reform in China. After this reform, we find that the wage costs for surviving firms that were more exposed to minimum wage hikes rose, but their employment and profitability were not affected. This came about due to significant productivity gains among surviving exposed firms. Our results are robust to pre-trend analysis and an IV strategy. However, the survival probability of firms most exposed to minimum-wage hikes fell after the Reform. Firm-level productivity gains partly came from better inventory management and greater investment in capital, at the cost of a reduction in firm-level cash flow. We show that competing explanations are unlikely. In particular, there is no evidence of lower fringe benefits compensating for higher wages, the substitution of less-paid/less-protected migrants for incumbent workers, or firm-level adjustment through higher prices instead of higher productivity. This firm-level productivity adjustment to the minimum wage might be particularly relevant for developing countries where inefficiencies are still pervasive.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Mayneris & Sandra Poncet & Tao Zhang, 2016. "Improving or Disappearing: Firm-Level Adjustments to Minimum Wages in China," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2016027, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2016027
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    11. Duanmu, Jing-Lin & Norbäck, Pehr-Johan & Lu, Jane Wenzhen & Clegg, Jeremy, 2022. "Contraction under minimum wages? Operational and financial advantages of multinational subsidiaries in China," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(2).
    12. Peter Harasztosi & Attila Lindner, 2019. "Who Pays for the Minimum Wage?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(8), pages 2693-2727, August.
    13. Sudheer Chava & Alexander Oettl & Manpreet Singh, 2019. "Does a One-Size-Fits-All Minimum Wage Cause Financial Stress for Small Businesses?," NBER Working Papers 26523, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Fan, Haichao & Hu, Yichuan & Tang, Lixin, 2021. "Labor costs and the adoption of robots in China," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 186(C), pages 608-631.
    15. Chu, Angus C. & Furukawa, Yuichi & Kou, Zonglai & Liu, Xueyue, 2019. "Effects of Minimum Wage on Import and Innovation: Theory and Evidence from China," MPRA Paper 97008, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Olena Chorna, 2021. "Firm-level Effects of Minimum Wages," Prague Economic Papers, Prague University of Economics and Business, vol. 2021(4), pages 402-425.
    17. Dosi, Giovanni & Virgillito, Maria Enrica & Yu, Xiaodan, 2020. "The wage-productivity nexus in the world factory economy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    18. Linas Tarasonis & Jose Garcia-Louzao, 2020. "A First Glance at the Minimum Wage Incidence in Lithuania using Social Security Data," Bank of Lithuania Discussion Paper Series 23, Bank of Lithuania.
    19. Baek, Jisun & Lee, Changkeun & Park, WooRam, 2021. "The impact of the minimum wage on the characteristics of new establishments: Evidence from South Korea," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    20. Angus C. Chu & Haichao Fan & Yuichi Furukawa & Zonglai Kou & Xueyue Liu, 2021. "Minimum Wages, Import Status, And Firms' Innovation: Theory And Evidence From China," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 59(1), pages 441-458, January.
    21. Du, Pengcheng & Wang, Shuxun, 2020. "The effect of minimum wage on firm markup: Evidence from China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 241-250.
    22. Bai, Xue & Chatterjee, Arpita & Krishna, Kala & Ma, Hong, 2021. "Trade and minimum wages in general equilibrium: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C).
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    24. Dami'an Vergara, 2022. "Minimum Wages and Optimal Redistribution in the Presence of Taxes and Transfers," Papers 2202.00839, arXiv.org, revised May 2022.
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    Keywords

    minimum wages; firm-level performance; productivity; China;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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