Discussion paper

DP11657 China's mobility barriers and employment allocations

China’s hukou system imposes two main barriers to population movements. Agricultural workers get land to cultivate but run the risk of losing it if they migrate. Social transfers (education, health, etc.) are conditional on holding a local hukou. We show that the land policy is a more important barrier on industrialization. This distortion can be corrected by giving property rights to farmers. Social transfers dampen mainly urbanization. We calculate that the two policies together lead to overemployment in agriculture of 6.7 points, under-employment in the urban sector of 6.3 points and have practically no impact on the rural non-agricultural sector.


Ngai, L and C Pissarides (2016), ‘DP11657 China's mobility barriers and employment allocations‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 11657. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11657