Dispatches From China

China’s migrant workers seek a better life

Editor’s note: In the previous edition of BizTimes, the first part of this discussion covered the labor shortage China is facing and what the Chinese government is doing about it. The second part of the discussion focuses on the dynamics of China’s migrant workforce.


China has 130 to 230 million migrant workers who have built its cities and products. Estimates are murky at best, but it would seem more realistic to rely on the higher estimates.

You may notice that these articles contain a lot of unsubstantiated numbers and references. While it would be preferable to have sources, it is nearly impossible to get good data in China. Numbers are bandied about on the Internet and in the media, but few cite sources, and those that do; the sources cited have no discernable methodology that can be examined.

Unfortunately, even the supposedly unbiased international reports are little more than hashed over estimates based on unreliable data, so the best that can be done is to give broad ranges, based on what seems to be most repeated. 

Getting back to the point; as a cheap source of labor, migrant workers have been pivotal in China’s economic rise, but as times change so has the nature of the workforce. After the 2010 Spring Holiday in February (Chinese New Year), media outlets within and then outside China started reporting labor shortages.

Read more in the latest issue of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display