China: Cheap labour is becoming scarce

CHINAPopulation: 1.34bn65 years and over: 9.1%Life expectancy at birth: 74.8 yearsPopulation in 2050: 1.30bn

The World Today Published 3 April 2013 Updated 2 October 2020 2 minute READ

Qiyu Tu

Deputy Director, Institute of Urban and Demographic Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

Zhengzhou railway station is one of the main transport hubs in central China. For its chief operator, the third week after the Chinese New Year is the peak period as more than 100 million migrant workers return after the holiday to their workplaces, which are mainly in the coastal areas. It has been like this for the past 20 years.

This year the stationmaster received a surprise. He had prepared more than 100 extra trains to cope with the expected rise in passengers, as he did every year. However, this time only a tenth of the expected number of tickets were sold. The inland provinces claim that they themselves are short of labour and have none to meet the demand of coastal factories.

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