Ist China bald nicht mehr Niedriglohnland?

PEKING – Berichte über Arbeitskräftemangel, Lohnkämpfe und Lohnerhöhungen für Wanderarbeiter in China häufen sich in letzter Zeit. Sie haben natürlich die Befürchtung oder Erwartung geweckt, dass Chinas Vorzüge bei den Arbeitskosten verschwinden könnten.

Ich persönlich hege die Hoffnung, dass Chinas komparativer Vorteil als Niedriglohnproduzent verschwindet – je eher desto besser. Aber warum sollte ich, ein chinesischer Ökonom, mir wünschen, dass Chinas Wettbewerbsfähigkeit durch steigende Arbeitskosten sinkt? Schließlich braucht ein Land, wenn ihm noch reale Vorteile wie Hochschulbildung, effiziente Märkte und Unternehmen sowie Innovationsfähigkeit fehlen, so etwas wie niedrige Löhne, um das Wachstum aufrechtzuerhalten.

Obwohl billige Arbeitskräfte ein Schlüsselfaktor für die hohe Wachstumsrate in den vergangenen drei Jahrzehnten waren, haben sie auch zu gewaltigen Einkommensunterschieden beigetragen, vor allem in den letzten Jahren. Und anhaltende, sich ausweitende Ungleichheit führt womöglich zu sozialen Krisen, die das Wachstum unterbrechen und der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit schaden könnten. China muss ein solches Szenario vermeiden, und wenn die Löhne bedeutsam anstiegen, würde dies darauf hinweisen, dass die Wirtschaft endlich die nächste Entwicklungsstufe erreichen könnte, in der sich die Einkommensunterschiede verringern würden.

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