The massive downsizing of the state-owned sector and the concomitant impressive growth of the private sector at the end of the 1990s have altered the nature of the Chinese labor market. The introduction of market mechanisms has contributed to increasing labor turnover and competitiveness in market wages. Using two urban household surveys for 1995 and 2002, this paper analyzes the evolution of labor market segmentation in urban China by applying an extended version of Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition methods. During the seven-year period, the sharp increase in real earnings for all workers shows substantial differences across ownership, economic sectors, and regions. We find strong evidence of a multitiered labor market along these three major lines and highlight increasing segmentation within each of the three dimensions, with the gap between the privileged segments of the labor market and the most competitive segments widening over time.

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