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Building stock dynamics and the impact of construction bubble and bust on employment in China

Qiance Liu, Litao Liu, Xiaojie Liu, Shenggong Li and Gang Liu

Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2021, vol. 25, issue 6, 1631-1643

Abstract: The rapid urbanization and building boom in China in the past decades provided not only massive residential and nonresidential floor space, but also millions of jobs especially for migrants from rural areas. However, such high‐speed growth of building stocks is not expected to continue forever and its dynamics, especially declining, may affect the job market of the construction sector and further China's social stability. Here, we extended a dynamic material flow analysis (dMFA) model that characterized the building stocks and flows to forecast the province‐level direct labor demand in construction, installation, and decoration in mainland China from 1950 to 2050. We show that as China's per capita building stocks start to saturate in the next decades, building inflow will decrease with a speed of 2.6–2.7 billion m2/year, corresponding to a decrease of direct construction employment by 2–3 million by 2050. The flow of migrant workers from Central South and Southwestern China to construction in the Southeastern coast of China will remain until 2050. Our results exemplify the usefulness of dMFA for labor demand forecasting and call for proper governmental plans and policies in advance to train migrant workers for new labor markets and potential re‐employment in face of the construction bubble and bust.

Date: 2021
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