China migrant worker pay up 21 pc in 2011

China’s 159 million-strong migrant workforce grew and saw an average salary increase of 21.2 percent in 2011 from a year ago, signalling tight labour conditions across the country despite a slowdown in economic growth and a shift in employment trends.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Fri 27 Apr 2012, 4:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 11:47 AM

The National Bureau of Statistics survey of China’s migrant labour force showed the number of rural migrants working outside their home towns grew 3.4 percent in 2011 from a year ago, while pay rose to 2,049 yuan ($325) a month.

The number of migrant workers outside their home provinces meanwhile fell in 2011 by 3.2 percent while those working in their home provinces grew 10.1 percent. The rate of expansion in the overall migrant workforce slowed from 2010’s 5.5 percent.

Friday’s data is fresh evidence of the competition wealthy - and expensive - coastal provinces increasingly face for workers from their inland counterparts as more migrants seek and find jobs closer to home.

Solid double-digit pay hikes and an increasingly demanding younger generation of workers are putting heavy pressure on manufacturers like Foxconn, which is using China’s cheap labour to assemble Apple’s iPhones and iPads.

But the absolute level of pay in China, however, remains low. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Chinese migrant workers had worked 25.4 days a month in average and 8.8 hours a day, making hourly earnings about $1.50 per hour, against the $23 in the United States.

The data revealed for the first time that more Chinese migrant workers chose to work in their own provinces rather than in other provinces - 52.9 percent of those who left their home towns or villages found jobs within the same province.

“This changed the usual pattern of previous years,” the NBS said on its website (

The NBS said the survey was conducted on a nationwide basis covering 200,000 migrant workers who had taken non-farm jobs for more than six months.

The number of migrant workers in coastal, export-oriented provinces did grow in 2011, despite inland competition and a steady decline in the annual rate of export growth as demand in China’s two biggest markets - the European Union and the United States - waned and dragged overall economic growth to a two-year low of 9.2 percent.

The Yangtze River delta area around Shanghai grew 0.3 percent in 2011, and in the Pearl River delta region facing Hong Kong, it grew by 0.1 percent.

A seemingly endless stream of rural workers migrating to cities in search of better jobs and lives has underpinned China’s economic rise in the past decade by supplying its booming economy with a vast pool of cheap labour.

But economists say China’s pool of low-cost labour is quickly drying up, pushing the country close to a turning point where wages are set for rapid gains.

Workers are also ageing quickly. In 2011, workers aged above 40 accounted for 38.3 percent of the labour force in 2011, up from the 30 percent in 2008.

“The change in age structure tells us that the once ‘unlimited supply’ of migrant worker is changing,” NBS noted.

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