Pickled Mustard Index provides glimpse of Chinese population migration trend

pickled mustard tuber package

pickled mustard tuber packageThere has been a significant movement of migrant workers in China away from the Pearl and Yangtze River Deltas in the past few years. Such movements of population have been reflected in a recently coined Pickled Mustard Tuber Index(榨菜指数).

Pickled Mustard Tuber Index?

Well, spicy pickled mustard tuber is a very common vegetable which is typically sold in meal size packages and is consumed by Chinese across different regions of China. Pickled mustard tuber is inexpensive and consumed in large volumes, and its level of consumption is fairly unaffected by changes in personal income levels. Similar to instant noodles and other convenient foods, the amount of pickled mustard tuber consumed by local city residents stay relatively stable. Any change in the amount consumed is largely determined by and can be attributed to the population of the migrant workers.

According to the regional sales data from the biggest mustard tuber supplier in China, the revenue share of their Southern China sales region has gradually decreased from 49% in 2007 to only 30% in 2011, while other the share of other sales regions increased to over 10% over the same period. Whereas the central and northwest sales regions recorded growth ranging from 57% to 67% between 2010 to 2012, growth in southern China was a mere 9%, dead last of all regions.

spicy pickled mustard tuberAlthough not exactly scientific, this mustard index serves as a proxy and provides a crude measure of the migration pattern within the country.

While the movement of migrant farmers away from the Pearl and Yangtze River Deltas greatly relieves the tremendous pressure on social infrastructure brought along by their initial arrivals, their departures, however, also remove a source of cheap labor in the coastal regions. This trend puts further pressure on China’s coastal regions to transition away from their traditional labor intensive economic base.

Numerical context

Total migrant population: 230 million (2011 census), up 8.28 million from the year before.

Top 10 recipient provinces/admin zones (63% of all migrants): Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong, Fujian, Shanghai, Liaoning, Sichuan, Beijing and Hebei – all but Sichuan and Beijing are located along the coast.

Sources: www.china.com.cn, www.ce.cn

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