The Role of Surplus Labour

Chris Bramall

in Sources of Chinese Economic Growth, 1978-1996

Published in print September 2000 | ISBN: 9780198296973
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596018 | DOI:

Series: Studies on Contemporary China

The Role of Surplus Labour

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This chapter demonstrates that attempts to explain Chinese growth in terms of the transfer of surplus labour from agriculture to industry are unconvincing. The Lewis model, out of which labour‐surplus theories have evolved, offers a number of insights. However, this type of model ignores the point that surplus labour was created by the transition strategy itself; it was not a legacy. It also underestimates the problems involved in transforming the Chinese peasantry into an industrial proletariat, as well as the demand side difficulties caused by inter‐provincial migration. By depressing industrial productivity, labour migration hindered rather than helped the Chinese growth process.

Keywords: demand; labour‐surplus; Lewis; migration; productivity

Chapter.  11365 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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