In­ter­gen­er­a­tional Com­par­a­tive Study on Con­sump­tion of Mi­grant Work­ers in China

China Economist - - Articles - Wang Meiyan (王美艳) In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor Eco­nom­ics, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, Bei­jing, China

WangMeiyan(王美艳)

Ab­stract: Based on China ur­ban la­bor sur­vey data of 2016, this pa­per in­ves­ti­gates the dif­fer­ences in con­sump­tion level and struc­ture be­tween the new and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion ru­ral mi­grant work­ers in China and iden­ti­fies the de­ter­mi­nants of mi­grant work­ers’ con­sump­tion. Ac­cord­ing to de­scrip­tive anal­y­sis, the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds spend 26% more on an an­nual per capita ba­sis com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. More specif­i­cally, the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds spend 33% more on cloth­ing, food, hous­ing and travel, and 10% more on health­care on an an­nual per capita ba­sis com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, while their per capita spend­ing on ed­u­ca­tion is only 73% that of their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. Re­sult of re­gres­sion anal­y­sis shows that with other fac­tors un­der con­trol, the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds spend 14.9% more on cloth­ing, food, hous­ing and travel com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, and their per capita gross con­sump­tion is 10.9% higher than that of their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. Con­sump­tion elas­tic­ity for cloth­ing, food, hous­ing and travel among the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds and their over­all con­sump­tion elas­tic­ity are both sig­nif­i­cantly higher than those of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds. Com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, the spend­ing of the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds on cloth­ing, food, hous­ing and travel rep­re­sents a higher share of their over­all con­sump­tion, and the share of their ed­u­ca­tional con­sump­tion is even lower.

Key­words: new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers, con­sump­tion level, con­sump­tion struc­ture, con­sump­tion elas­tic­ity

JEL Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Codes: D12; J01; J10

DOI: 1 0.19602/j .chi­nae­conomist.2018.09.06

1. In­tro­duc­tion

At the be­gin­ning of 2010, the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and the State Coun­cil is­sued the No.1 doc­u­ment for the year ti­tled Opin­ions on En­hanc­ing Co­or­di­nated Ur­ban and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Fur­ther Strength­en­ing Agri­cul­tural and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment. Ac­cord­ing to this doc­u­ment, “spe­cific mea­sures must be taken to ad­dress prob­lems with the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers.” This was the first time that the phrase “new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers” was used in the Party’s doc­u­ments, which

shows a high level of at­ten­tion from the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee to this group of peo­ple. The fact that the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers raised con­cerns is due to their unique char­ac­ter­is­tics com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. This study will dis­cuss the con­sump­tion level and struc­ture of the new­gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers, com­pare them with those of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers and ex­am­ine the de­ter­mi­nants of con­sump­tion by ru­ral mi­grant work­ers.

Since re­form and open­ing-up in 1978, China’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ru­ral house­hold con­tract re­spon­si­bil­ity sys­tem re­leased tremen­dous sur­plus la­bor. In ad­di­tion, re­forms of the house­hold reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem and ur­ban wel­fare sys­tems also fa­cil­i­tated ur­ban em­ploy­ment of the ru­ral work­force. Ac­cord­ing to mon­i­tor­ing and sur­vey of ru­ral mi­grant work­ers by the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics (NBS) in 31 Chi­nese prov­inces, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and au­ton­o­mous re­gions, in 2016, there were 282 mil­lion ru­ral mi­grant work­ers in China, in­clud­ing 169 mil­lion mi­grant work­ers who worked out­side their home town­ships (NBS, 2017). So far, China’s la­bor mi­gra­tion from the coun­try­side to cities has lasted for over three decades, and a new gen­er­a­tion of mi­grant work­ers as a so­cial group have also emerged. The new­gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers born af­ter the 1980s be­came the largest group of mi­grant work­ers.

Stud­ies show that com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers have brand-new hu­man cap­i­tal and em­ploy­ment char­ac­ter­is­tics. The new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers are more ed­u­cated and a greater per­cent­age of them have re­ceived train­ing. In ad­di­tion, a higher per­cent­age of them are the only child of their fam­ily and grew up and re­ceived ed­u­ca­tion in cities. With such unique­ness, the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers are en­tirely dif­fer­ent from their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion in terms of their con­sump­tion philoso­phies and be­hav­iors (Cai, 2011). Their con­sump­tion sta­tus will af­fect mi­grant work­ers’ over­all con­sump­tion, and thus in­flu­ence China’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Un­rav­el­ling the in­ter­gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences in the con­sump­tion of mi­grant work­ers helps un­der­stand the new char­ac­ter­is­tics of China’s la­bor mar­ket.

To date, there is a lim­ited body of lit­er­a­ture on the con­sump­tion of the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers, and most of the few ex­ist­ing stud­ies only made sim­ple de­scrip­tions in terms of their con­sump­tion philoso­phies. The Project Team on “New Gen­er­a­tion of Mi­grant Work­ers” (2011) noted that the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers have a higher av­er­age propen­sity to con­sume; Li and Tian (2011) sug­gested that the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers have a rather dif­fer­ent con­sump­tion pat­tern com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion; Liu and Wang (2013) con­cluded that the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers have a higher level of con­sump­tion com­pared with their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. Some stud­ies an­a­lyzed cer­tain con­sump­tion types of the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers, such as con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion (Jin and Cui, 2013; Jin et al., 2015), ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural con­sump­tion (Jin et al., 2014)) and de­vel­op­men­tal con­sump­tion (Jin and Yang, 2016)). How­ever, these stud­ies were con­fined to de­scrip­tive anal­y­sis with­out com­par­ing the con­sump­tion level and struc­ture be­tween the new and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers and ex­am­in­ing their de­ter­mi­nants.

Based on China ur­ban la­bor sur­vey data of 2016 re­leased by the In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor Eco­nom­ics, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, this study ex­am­ines the dif­fer­ences in con­sump­tion level and struc­ture be­tween the new and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers and the de­ter­mi­nants of such dif­fer­ences. The re­main­der of this study is or­ga­nized as fol­lows: Sec­tion 2 of­fers an anal­y­sis of the new-gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ con­sump­tion level and struc­ture and com­pares them with those of their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion; Sec­tion 3 dis­cusses the de­ter­mi­nants of ru­ral mi­grant work­ers’ con­sump­tion level and struc­ture, and the dif­fer­ences be­tween the new and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers; and Sec­tion 4 of­fers the pa­per’s con­clu­sions and pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions.

2. Con­sump­tion Level and Struc­ture of the New-Gen­er­a­tion Mi­grant Work­ers: Com­par­i­son with the Pre­vi­ous Gen­er­a­tion Mi­grant Work­ers

This sec­tion ex­plains how the new and pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mi­grant work­ers’ house­holds are de­fined

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