The Role of Surplus Labour
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.
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