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Human capital, migration, and a ‘vent’ for surplus rural labour in 1930s China: the case of the Lower Yangzi

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Abstract

A farm survey conducted in a prosperous Chinese county (Wuxi) in the Lower Yangzi region in the 1930s shows that a ‘vent’ existed for surplus farm workers to obtain off-farm migrant employment and that the slack in farming created by this migration process attracted those from the lower-wage districts, resulting in the creation of a hierarchy of labour markets differentiated by education and skills. Our analysis also reveals that there were crucial links between education, migration, and income, and it refutes the claim that migration was caused by land deficiency and favoured those who lived near the urban core.

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