Stepping up the Transfer of Surplus Rural Labor
The western region of China should accelerate the movement of its surplus rural labor, to increase the income of rural residents and develop the rural economy, Member Li Guozhang of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) suggested at the Ninth CPPCC session held in Beijing in March.

In 1999, the annual average income of rural residents was 1,610 yuan, only 72.9 percent of the country’s average for farmers. Some provinces in Western China, such as Gansu, saw even lower incomes.

The slow transfer of surplus labor from the countryside to the non-agricultural sector contributed to the sluggish increase. Farmers in eastern China net higher incomes than their western counterparts thanks to the channeling of surplus rural labor into secondary and tertiary industries.

To help western Chinese farmers solve this problem, Li Guozhang urged the Chinese government to put the movement of surplus rural labor on the top of its agenda, and work our specific policies and plans for the smooth transfer of this labor force. The rural economic system should be reformed, and the local governmental functions should be changed to better serve the campaign. In addition, the central government should establish a special fund to support the transfer, since western China’s economy is relatively backward.

Li added that education should be developed vigorously to popularize scientific and technological knowledge, and upgrade farmers’ skills so that they can engage in non-agricultural occupations. Efforts should be made to create more jobs by industrializing agricultural operations, developing rural enterprises and private businesses, developing small cities and towns, and expanding tourism, transportation and other services.

What is even more important, Li stressed, is that the movement of surplus rural labor from agricultural to non-agricultural activities should be carried out step by step, and experiments be made first to accumulate experience for larger-scale transfers.

( 03/08/2001)