Declining Labor Share: Is China's Case Different?

18 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2010

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This paper explores why labor share in China has declined since the middle of the 1990s. Existing literature usually ascribes the labor share decline in developed countries to biased technological progress. However, our investigation shows that China's case is different. Using a simultaneous equation model estimated with three-stage least squares, we find that FDI, levels of economic development and privatization have negative effects on the labor share. The negative influence of FDI on labor share results from regional competition for FDI, which weakens labor forces' bargaining power. A U-shaped relationship exists between labor share and the level of economic development, and China is now on the declining part of the curve. The negative effects of privatization on the labor share stem from the elimination of the so-called “wage costs eroding profit” situation and the positive supply shock on the labor market.

Suggested Citation

Luo, Changyuan, Declining Labor Share: Is China's Case Different?. China & World Economy, Vol. 18, No. 6, pp. 1-18, November-December 2010, Available at SSRN: or

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