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How off-farm work drives the intensity of rural households' investment in forest management: The case from Zhejiang, China

Zhu, Zhen, Xu, Zhigang, Shen, Yueqin, Huang, Chenming, Zhang, Yaoqi
Forest policy and economics 2019 v.98 pp. 30-43
econometric models, employment opportunities, forest management, forests, households, labor force, land use, off-farm employment, rural areas, surveys, urban areas, China
China’s new round of forest tenure reform since 2006 has devolved the land-use rights of collective forests to individual households. Since then, policymakers have advocated household forestland transfers and large-scale forest holdings to increase the efficiency and returns from forest management. At the same time, there has been a rapid growth in off-farm working opportunities in urban areas of China. It is therefore important to analyze the impact of this increase in off-farm employment on the forest management investments of households with different scales of forestland holding. Based on the framework of the new economics of labor migration theory (NELM) and data obtained from surveying 300 households in 5 rural counties in Zhejiang Province, alternative econometric models were used to estimate how off-farm work drives the intensity of rural households' investments in forest management. The findings reveal that households with large-scale forestland holdings (LHs) are usually willing to increase their investments in forest management due to the remittance effect of their off-farm employment. In contrast, households with small-scale forestland holdings (SHs) prefer to decrease their investments in forest management due to the out-migration effect of the growing off-farm employment opportunities. The results provide a clear explanation about the necessity of large-scale forest management under the backdrop of increasing out-migration of the labor force in China's rural areas. The paper concludes with recommendations for policymakers to develop initiatives that will promote and support large-scale forest management by households in rural China.