Are middle-aged migrant workers a demographic dividend?

category:Finance
 Are middle-aged migrant workers a demographic dividend?


It is recognized that the demographic dividend is related to the age structure of the population. However, there are quite different opinions on what age group of population is the dividend and what age group of population is not.

The employer wants young migrant workers

From the perspective of Chinas reality, the practices of migrant workers employers are consistent with the dividend theory of youth population, and they always welcome young migrant workers.

Chinas nationwide shortage of migrant workers broke out in 2004, after the employers were extremely picky about the age of migrant workers because of the oversupply of migrant workers of all ages. For example, in 2004, in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, which was dominated by labor-intensive manufacturing industry, enterprises in the city accounted for about 80% of the labor force aged 18-25, more than 10% of the labor force aged 25-34, and the rest of the labor force aged 35 and over. Even so, enterprises still feel that the proportion of young workers is not high enough, and the requirements for new recruitment of migrant workers are: in terms of age structure, 87% of them are aged 17-25, and 10.8% are aged 26-35.

Since the outbreak of the national shortage of migrant workers, the number of young migrant workers in China has been decreasing, and the younger the migrant workers, the more. In 2008, the proportion of migrant workers aged 16-20 and 21-30 was 10.7% and 35.3% respectively. In 2019, the two proportions dropped to 2.0% and 23.1% respectively. In 2008 and 2019, the total number of migrant workers in China was 225.42 million and 290.77 million respectively. During the 11 years, the number of migrant workers aged 16-20 and 21-30 dropped from 24.12 million and 79.57 million to 5.82 million and 67.17 million respectively.

Mr. Yang Weimin believes that the reason why migrant workers return home in their 40s is that they cant settle down in cities, and the author disagrees with this view. At least in the last 10 years, the number of migrant workers in their 40s and 50s has been on the rise. In 2010, the proportion of migrant workers aged 41-50 and over in total migrant workers was 13.4% and 4.7% respectively, from which the absolute number was 16.43 million and 5.76 million respectively. By 2019, the above proportion will rise to 19.2% and 13% respectively, with an absolute amount of 33.46 million and 22.65 million respectively. From 2008 to 2019, the number of migrant workers out of China increased from 140.41 million to 174.25 million, an increase of 33.84 million; in the same period, the number of migrant workers over 40 years old increased by 33.92 million.

The author believes that the real reason why migrant workers return home in their 40s is the contradictory attitude of the employers towards them: on the one hand, they have to use them, on the other hand, they use them as little as possible. This contradictory attitude is due to the difference of labor ability of migrant workers of different ages. The employment of ordinary migrant workers is mainly in labor-intensive industries. In this kind of industry, the middle-aged migrant workers are not as good as the young migrant workers in terms of physical strength, response sensitivity and action accuracy; with the growth of age, the gap between the middle-aged and the young migrant workers in terms of labor productivity will be larger and larger. The employers are reluctant to use middle-aged migrant workers, in the final analysis, to reduce the cost of employment.

Are middle-aged migrant workers a demographic dividend?

Although the labor productivity of middle-aged migrant workers is lower than that of young migrant workers, the author still thinks that they are part of Chinas population dividend. The reasons are as follows.

First of all, the calculation of labor force is based on people rather than age groups.

The average life expectancy of Chinas population is much higher than the current legal retirement age. This means that the vast majority of workers will experience the youth and middle age in turn. If a migrant worker of a certain age (such as 40-60 years old) can not find work and income in the city, his working life will be shortened and his dependent life will be extended in terms of individual; in terms of society, the number of people who can support others will be reduced and the number of people who need to be supported by others will be increased. This will greatly increase the pressure of raising in Chinese society. It can be seen that only when middle-aged migrant workers cant find jobs can they really reduce the demographic dividend.

The underemployment of middle-aged labor force will affect all aspects. For example, the reason why ordinary workers have such a big opinion on delaying retirement is that they become poor employment households 10 years before retirement. For them, delaying retirement is not between work and retirement, but between unemployment and retirement. China is gradually bringing migrant workers into the endowment insurance system, and the employment situation of middle-aged migrant workers will affect the implementation and smooth operation of endowment insurance.

Secondly, the survival of the fittest is difficult to solve the employment problem caused by the age factor.

Finally, even if some middle-aged migrant workers no longer engage in non-agricultural production after returning home, they are also the performance of the demographic dividend at home.

As a laborer, migrant workers have two functions at the same time: one is to earn money to support the family; the other is to look after the old, the young, the sick and the disabled in the family. The reason why migrant workers who have traveled thousands of miles to work in other places can work 996 overtime efficiently is based on the premise that someone at home looks after the old, the young, the sick and the disabled left in their hometown.

In a word, there used to be a large number of surplus labor force in Chinese countryside in history. This kind of reality uses workers to hire young migrant workers. The theoretical behavior of employers is the concept of dividend of young labor force. With the decrease of rural surplus labor force and more and more middle-aged migrant workers entering into non-agricultural industries, the concept of demographic dividend of young labor force has fallen behind the times. (author: Guanghua School of management, Peking University) source: Guo Chenqi, editor in charge of the first financial daily_ NBJ9931

In a word, there used to be a large number of surplus labor force in Chinese countryside in history. This kind of reality uses workers to hire young migrant workers. The theoretical behavior of employers is the concept of dividend of young labor force. With the decrease of rural surplus labor force and more and more middle-aged migrant workers entering into non-agricultural industries, the concept of demographic dividend of young labor force has fallen behind the times.

(author: Guanghua School of management, Peking University)