Ceaseless Toil? Health and Labor Supply of the Elderly in Rural China

59 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2003

See all articles by Dwayne Benjamin

Dwayne Benjamin

University of Toronto

Loren Brandt

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jia-Zhueng Fan

University of Toronto - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2003

Abstract

Deborah Davis-Friedmann (1991) described the "retirement" pattern of the Chinese elderly in the prereform era as "ceaseless toil": lacking sufficient means of support, the elderly had to work their entire lives. In this paper we re-cast the metaphor of ceaseless toil in a labor supply model, where we highlight the role of age and deteriorating health. The empirical focus of our paper is (1) Documenting the labor supply patterns of elderly Chinese; and (2) Estimating the extent to which failing health drives retirement. We exploit the panel dimension of the 1991-93-97 waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey, confronting a number of econometric issues, especially the possible contamination of age by cohort effects, and the measurement error of health. In the end, it appears that "ceaseless toil" is also an accurate depiction of elderly Chinese work patterns since economic reform, but failing health only plays a small observable role in explaining declining labor supply over the life-cycle.

Keywords: retirement, health and labor supply, social security, China

JEL Classification: J26, J14, P36

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Dwayne and Brandt, Loren and Fan, Jia-Zhueng, Ceaseless Toil? Health and Labor Supply of the Elderly in Rural China (June 2003). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=417820 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.417820

Dwayne Benjamin (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

105 St. George Street
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416-978-6130 (Phone)
416-978-6713 (Fax)

Loren Brandt

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
Canada
416-978-4442 (Phone)
416-978-6713 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jia-Zhueng Fan

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
Canada

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