Agricultural labour and the incidence of surplus labour: Experience from China during reform
China had around 500 million labourers in its countryside in 2005, 64 per cent more than the figure in 1980 (Table 15.1). Of these, 299 million were in agriculture. With just 127 million hectares of arable land,1 the Chinese countryside seems unable to support peasants in agricultural jobs. Together with the development of rural enterprises and other non-agricultural sectors, many of these have been engaged in these formal and informal activities since the economic reform initiated in the late 1970s. Observers anticipate that China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) accession will have a significant but negative impact on agricultural production and its employment.