How is rural China

Rural areas of China


1 Schillerstr Berlin Tel .: Fax: Rural areas of China By Wolfgang Taubmann China has experienced rapid economic growth in the last few decades. Accordingly, jobs outside of agriculture also increased significantly in rural areas. However, they are not enough to absorb all the released agricultural workers. This development is at least partially reflected in the development of the urban and rural population and the workforce. If we first look at the distribution of the rural and urban population, it can be seen that the rural population increased from 503 million to 796 million between 1952 and 2001, i.e. by around 58 percent. In absolute terms, however, the rural population had already peaked in 1995 (860 million). In contrast, the urban population has grown steadily, namely from 72 million (1952) to 481 (2001) million; it has increased by 571 percent in the same period. It is now estimated that the urban population has risen to 562 million Chinese, making 43 percent of the total population live in cities (2005 microcensus). After all, if you take these figures from the various statistical yearbooks as a basis, the proportion of the rural population in the total population of the country has decreased from 87.5 percent in 1952 to 57 percent in 2006. This means that the proportion of the urban population is already well above that in India (29 percent). 1

2 Development of the urban and rural population of China Source: China Yearbook 2004: /08/content_27315.htm This shift between rural and urban population growth is not due to the different natural population growth, but essentially to the change in household eligibility ( Hukou), the incorporation of administrative districts close to the city and the opening of small towns to the rural population. The birth rate in the country is still higher than in the city because the population policy is less strict there. In addition, in many cases a second child is officially allowed if the first is a girl. The importance of a patrilineal society in rural areas, in which mostly the son has to look after the parents at an advanced age, is also shown in the different gender ratios: in the cities it is 100 (female) to 99.94 (male), on the other hand the country 100 to 105.64. If this different relationship can even be found in the official statistics, it should de facto turn out to be far more clear. Unfortunately, there are no official data on the number of children per urban or rural family, nor are there any net reproduction rates. However, based on the average family size, one can assume that the number of children per household is higher in rural areas than in cities. While the average family size in the country was 3.36 in 2004, it was 2.79 in large cities like Beijing or 2.86 in Shanghai. In contrast, in the rural provinces the average number of people per household is considerably higher: for example, it is 3.93 in Gansu or 3.88 in Qinghai, and even 4.8 in Tibet. 2


4 Apart from migrant workers, the proportion of non-agricultural occupations for rural employees varies greatly from region to region. While the proportion of those employed in agriculture, forestry, animal breeding and fishing is between 40 and 60 percent in the coastal provinces, it rises to around 75 to 88 percent in the inland provinces. Nationwide, at the rural household level, there are different ways of combining agricultural and non-agricultural income. At this point in time it is also difficult to describe the various forms of transition as a gradual path from agriculture to non-agricultural activities. Because development is particularly unstable in the less developed regions, the rural workforce fluctuates between different income opportunities or combines different sources of income. It must also be assumed that the opportunities for the rural workforce to find a job outside of agriculture are extremely unevenly distributed. The older farmers in particular have almost no chance of finding a commercial job in rural or urban areas. This means that the dynamic economic areas on the east coast are also centers of attraction for the young migrant workers from the inland provinces, while the rural businesses in the less developed regions are obviously only of importance for the regional labor markets. Migrant workers from the countryside often move through the boom cities of the coastal regions as mangliu (people drifting blindly) in order to hire themselves out as day laborers and do the dirty or heavy work that the city dwellers no longer want to do. The 2005 microcensus recorded 147 million migrant workers, around a third left to work 4

5 also look for the borders of your own province. The main destinations for migrants from rural areas are the cities of Guangdong Province (15 million), Zhejiang (2.2 million) or Fujian (1.3 million); of course also Shanghai (3.0 million) and Beijing (2.4 million). There are no official unemployment figures for rural areas themselves. The so-called surplus rural labor is a constant topic of the local press and science. In any case, there are only assumptions about the numbers, often 130 to 150 million and more people who are superfluous in agriculture and are looking in vain for non-agricultural jobs. These data do not include the named migrant workers who work outside of their home town for a short or long term. As a rule, however, the surplus labor force in agriculture is not threatened by direct unemployment because they can at least operate an agricultural subsistence economy. At present, the annual per capita average income of the rural population is given by the Statistical Yearbook 2005 as 2,936.4 Renminbi (= 291.7 euros) per year, less than a third of the average income of the urban population (9,421.6 RMB = 935.9). This development is certainly a considerable increase in real income compared to 1980, but the ratio between urban and rural income has deteriorated slightly: in 1978 an urban resident earned 2.6 times that of a rural population, and in 2005 3.2 times as much. There is still an official rural poverty population of an estimated 42 million people (1998), assuming a so-called poverty line of 635 RMB per year per capita. However, assuming the international limit of one US dollar per day, the number of rural poor would be 106 million. But there is no question that rural poverty has decreased significantly. According to Chinese criteria, the number of rural poor has shrunk from 250 million in 1978 to the 42 million mentioned in 1998. However, these figures should be taken with caution. The farmers are also burdened by the large number of often illegal fees and taxes that rural officials have imposed on local residents. Such taxes are often necessary because the infrastructures (schools, health care) are no longer financed by the central government. Literature / Links Chao, S .: Geography of China. Environment, Resources, Population and Development, New York etc., 1994 Mallee, H .: Agricultural Labor and Rural Population Mobility: Some Observations, in: Lorain A. West and Yaohui Zhao (eds.): Rural Labor Flows in China (Research Papers and Policy Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California), Berkeley 2000, S National Bureau of Statistics in China, The Human Development Report. Published for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), China, New York, Oxford The World Bank: Accelerating China s Rural Transformation, Washington, D. C., 1999., 5

6 _ /Rendered/PDF/multi_page.pdf The World Bank, Overcoming Rural Poverty, Washington DC, The World Bank, East Asia Environment & Social Development Unit: China Country Gender Review, June 2002 Status: December 2007 Reprinting and further use of the article is permitted provided the source is acknowledged. We kindly ask you to send a specimen copy. The Berlin Institute's online demography manual is funded by 6