Drawing insights from economic history, the literature on health and nutrition and the microeconomics of agrarian contracts, my research attempts to evaluate the impact of reduced exposure to health risk on the labour supply decisions of Chinese peasant households.
Building on past work at the graduate level, I explore the microfoundations of structural change in developing economies by investigating the determinants of the emergence and diffusion of wage employment in rural settings previously dominated by family labour. The search for causal mechanisms will span over instances such as complementarities in the allocation of time within the household, the role of domestic care for the dependent population, the characteristics of the labour process in family farming vis-à-vis labour-hiring sectors, and the interaction between health risk and labour market uncertainty in migration decisions.
The underlying hypothesis of a functional nexus between the scope of the existing risk-sharing technolgy and the prevailing form of productive organization can be tested by looking at whether replacement of informal, household- and village- based insurance arrangements with an economy-wide scheme causes shifts in the comparative advantage of different labour contracts, thereby tilting the balance towards the labour market. Moreover, results from productivity-enhancing nutritional interventions can be used to track behavioral responses under different schemes. This exercise, while interesting in itself, may also have potential policy implications for the prospects of agricultural investment policies aimed at facilitating structural transformation by the active promotion of cooperative institutions in rural areas.
In the context of present day China, where a substantial fraction of the population still relying on agricultural incomes is currently bearing the brunt of increasing economic insecurity, the application of the above mentioned framework entails an evaluation of the New Cooperative Medical Scheme, launched by the Chinese leadership in 2003 in the attempt to rebuild health care and health insurance in the countryside.
Grantee of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi for the year 2013-2014