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China Looks for 13% Increase in Minimum Wage

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In a job market plan published Wednesday, the Chinese government said that its minimum wage should increase 13% in the five years to 2015. The country’s 12th five-year plan calls for wages to grow and for employment to rise.

According to Reuters, the plan posted on the country’s website calls for minimum wages to be 40% of average local salaries by 2015. Manufacturing bases for export goods have been plagued with labor shortages and rely on migrant laborers in the millions to supply the shortages. The government, however, said that it expects pressure from an oversupply of labor overall to rise as years pass.

The plan said in part, “Every year there are 25 million urban residents needing jobs and there are still significant amounts of excess rural labor needing to find jobs.” It also said, “All levels of governments making fiscal, financial and industrial policies must consider the impacts on employment and pay close attention to unemployment risks.”

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Worries about the possibility of social unrest have made the government wary of employment levels; it does not publish a national unemployment rate, and did not even officially recognize the existence of unemployment until the late 1990s.

Information on demographics from China’s statistics agency indicates a rapid aging of the country’s population and a contraction of the rural labor pool. Many economists cite these factors as the prime causes for hefty increases in wages over the past few years.

In 2011, for instance, the average monthly wage for migrant workers–some 158 million people–rose 21.2% from 2010′s level. Official data indicate that, for the five-year span of 2006-2010, the average minimum wage in China rose by 12.5% a year.