Data Archive - China Employer-Employee Survey (CEES)

Version year: 2018

Principal Investigator(s):
Hong Cheng, Institute of Quality Development Strategy, Wuhan University;
Yang Du, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;
Hongbin Li, Stanford University;
Albert Francis Park, Department of Economics, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

China Employer-Employee Survey Releases First Report
Institute for Emerging Market Studies
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Project information


Project description

The Chinese manufacturing sector has accounted for more than 20% of global manufacturing output in 2016 due to cheap and disciplined labor in China, where Chinese wages were only 3% of American wages and much lower than countries like Thailand. However, wages for Chinese labor have been rising since the late 1990s. By 2016, Chinese wages had reached 20% of wages in America, and 145% of that in Thailand. The change in labor wages, combined with slowing external demand, puts huge pressure on Chinese firms' profitability.

The China Employer-Employee Survey (CEES) studies how Chinese firms are coping with the changes and what are the implications for Chinese workers. Being the second-largest economy in the world, the situation of China regarding firms and workers are of the interests of economists and policy makers around the globe. To what extent are Chinese firms successfully upgrading to produce higher value-added, more capital intensive goods? Are they replacing labor with machines, increasing R&D investment, shifting production to cheaper regions in China or to other countries, or simply shutting down?

To date, the lack of high-quality, in-depth data on firms and workers had prevented systematic study of these issues. Existing firm datasets have limited information or fail to acquire a representative sample of firms and workers. The CEES project is here which provides a new source of data to overcome the above limitations.

The missions of CEES are:

  • To conduct the world's most comprehensive employer-employee survey of China
  • To create a longitudinal dataset that tracks changes in the situation of both employers and employees
  • To create a high-quality dataset that can provide a platform for evidence-based studies of the Chinese economy by economists and policy-makers worldwide

Search keywords

China Employer-Employee Survey, CEES, China, Guangdong, Hubei, employers, employees, firms, workers, employment

Scope of project

Data has been collected in the Guangdong province and the Hubei province in China.

Three waves of data have been collected in 2015, 2016 and 2018 respectively.


The CEES began with a survey in the most representative industrial province in Eastern China, Guangdong, which accounted for more manufacturing firms and manufacturing workers than any province in China in 2015. In order to capture differences with China's rising central region, the Hubei province was added in the study in 2016. The firms and workers surveyed in Guangdong in 2015 were followed up in 2016 with new workers added to the employee sample.

Firms were sampled from the firm lists conducted by the 3rd National Economic Census in early 2014. Sampling was conducted in two stages, each using probability proportionate-to-size (PPS) sampling, with size defined as manufacturing employment. Hence, the firm sample is representative in terms of employment size in China. In the first stage, 20 county-level districted were randomly sampled in each province. In the second stage, 50 firms were sampled in each district as a target sample.

The questionnaires for firms collect data regarding basic situation (including firm accounting data), firm head and management, production, sales, innovation, quality control and human resources. On the other hand, the questionnaire for workers collect data regarding personal background, current job, work history, social insurance and personality traits.


This section will be updated from time to time


The CEES survey is conducted by the Institute for Quality Development Strategy at Wuhan University, with support from provincial governments. It’s partially supported by funds from the World Bank awarded to HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, the Hong Kong Research Grants Council General Research Fund, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and multiple grants from Chinese government sources.

Documentation (files)

•    2015 manual
•    2016 manual
•    2018 manual

2015 Questionnaires
(Chinese only)
•    Firm questionnaire
•    Worker questionnaire

2016 Questionnaires
(Chinese only)
•    Continuing firm questionnaire
•    New firm questionnaire
•    Continuing worker questionnaire
•    New worker questionnaire

2018 Questionnaires
(Chinese only)
•    Firm questionnaire
•    Worker questionnaire

Data (files)  Restricted access

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Data-related publications

This section will be updated from time to time.


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