International Labour Review, Vol. 150 (2011), No. 1–2

Labour market transition, income inequality and economic growth in China

After “opening up” in 1978, China followed a development strategy that has led to internal and external economic imbalances, especially since its labour market reform of the mid-1990s and the resulting surge in rural-to-urban migration. Low labour costs emerged as its main comparative advantage, but its over-reliance on exports for growth was starkly exposed by the global economic crisis of 2008. This, coupled with widening income disparities, could jeopardize the sustainability of China's growth unless it adjusts its reform and development strategies to promote income equality and domestic consumption. The Employment Contract Law in force since 2008 could signal institutional change in the right direction.


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