Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 185-204

First online:

What Do Unions in China Do? Provincial-Level Evidence on Wages, Employment, Productivity, and Economic Output

  • John W. BuddAffiliated withCarlson School of Management, University of Minnesota Email author 
  • , Wei ChiAffiliated withSchool of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University
  • , Yijiang WangAffiliated withCheung Kong Graduate School of Business
  • , Qianyun XieAffiliated withCarlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

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Utilizing provincial-level data from the period of 1994–2008, this article studies the relationship between union density and wages, employment, productivity, and economic output in China. The findings indicate that union density does not affect average wage levels, but is positively associated with aggregate productivity and output. We discuss if and to what extent these findings are consistent with the familiar two faces of unions model and alternative explanations relevant in the context of Chinese labor and union institutions.


Labor unions China Wages