Chine : la fin des bas salaires ?

PEKIN  – Depuis quelques temps en Chine on parle abondamment du manque de main d'oeuvre, de conflits salariaux et de hausse des salaires des travailleurs migrants. Certains observateurs chinois prévoient, ou craignent, que la Chine ne perde l'avantage comparatif qu'elle tire de son image de pays à main d'oeuvre bon marché.

J'espère que cet avantage va disparaître, et le plus tôt sera le mieux. Comment se fait-il qu'un économiste chinois tel que moi souhaite que son pays perde en compétitivité en raison de la hausse du coût de la main d'oeuvre ? Si un pays ne dispose pas de véritables atouts tels qu'une population avec un haut d'étude élevé, des marchés et des entreprises efficaces ou une aptitude à innover, il lui faut disposer d'un joker - la faiblesse des salaires par exemple - pour maintenir la croissance.

Le faible coût de la main d'oeuvre a été un facteur déterminant de la forte croissance chinoise lors des 30 dernières années, mais plus récemment elle a aussi contribué à creuser d'énormes différences de revenus. Or des inégalités profondément enracinées, qui vont croissants, peuvent déclencher une crise sociale susceptible de donner un coup d'arrêt à la croissance et de porter atteinte à la compétitivité chinoise. La Chine doit éviter un tel scénario. Si les salaires augmentaient substantiellement, cela montrerait que l'économie a peut-être franchi une étape dans son développement, marquée par une diminution de l'écart des revenus.

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