Some recent stories I've heard on the China economy is that it's a worker's market right now. Many workers will quit their job without a second thought, especially in the booming regions, since many industries are still facing a worker shortage.
Granted, things may be changing rapidly due to cooling European and American demand, but I think by most measures, with the exception of air quality, the standard of living for your average Chinese citizen has gone up significantly over the last 10-15 years.
Also, I haven't heard of Chinese manufacturing workers getting paid less than a dollar a day, which is probably the type of worker most of these discussions refer to. Here is a quote based on a summary of the March 2011 report from the BLS on "China’s employment and compensation costs in manufacturing through 2008". I wouldn't be surprised if these rates increased since 2008, even taking into account the global slowdown, given China's 10-30% nominal GDP growth rate.
A 2011 report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) takes a thorough look at hourly manufacturing labor rates in China. While there has been a lot of demand for stats on China’s manufacturing sector, particularly comparable labor cost measurements, compiling accurate data has proven challenging for most analysts given China’s non-traditional practice of gathering and reporting the data is not typically recognized by research and analyst peers in the international community.
Given this difficulty, it can take years to compile a reasonably accurate profile for hourly labor rate information on China’s manufacturing sector.
Hence, this report represents findings up to 2008 and documents and analyzes changes in China’s manufacturing employment and hourly labor compensation costs on the basis of official data through 2008 and anecdotal reports from China since then whereas China’s manufacturing employment continued to grow from a total of 97.91 million at the end of 2007 to 99.01 million at year end 2008.
Though manufacturing workers in China are earning more than ever before, average hourly compensation costs were only $1.36 in 2008.
China’s hourly compensation costs remain far below those of many of its East Asian neighbors like Japan ($27.80) and Taiwan ($8.68), but are roughly on par with those of others like the Philippines ($1.68).
Edited by Elysian - 12/19/11 at 6:21pm