The role of off-farm employment in the rural energy consumption transition — A village-level analysis in Jiangxi Province, China

X. Shi, N. Heerink, F. Qu

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Energy consumption in rural areas in China is characterized by high consumption of fuelwood, straw and other biomass. Off-farm employment can play an important role in the transition towards more sustainable sources of energy by increasing rural household incomes and reducing the amount of labor available for biomass collection. The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of off-farm employment on rural household energy consumption choices, and to disentangle the various causal relationships that play a role in this respect. To this end, a hybrid farm household/village computable general equilibrium (CGE) model is used that has been calibrated for a remote village in Northeast Jiangxi Province where fuelwood is the main source of energy. The model takes into account nonseparability of farm household production and consumption decisions as well as linkages within the village between households involved in off-farm employment and households with no members working off-farm. Contrary to previous research for a richer region in rural China, we find that fuelwood is not an inferior good. The positive impact of more food consumption on fuelwood collection more than compensates the higher leisure demand associated with higher incomes. Shifts in production activities and in prices on village factor markets caused by increased labour scarcity (the lost-labour effect of off-farm employment), on the other hand, cause a reduction in fuelwood collection and consumption. This lost-labour effect is much stronger for migration than for local off-farm employment, because the latter can more easily be combined with on-farm work and fuelwood collection. For local off-farm employment the income effect dominates the lost-labour effect, resulting in a positive overall impact of higher off-farm participation on fuelwood consumption. For migration, on the other hand, the income effect and the lost-labour effect are almost equal in size. Hence, the amount of fuelwood collected and consumed does not change much when households participate in migration. The final conclusion is therefore that increased off-farm employment opportunities do not promote the transition of rural energy use in the poorer regions of rural China
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-359
JournalChina Economic Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • household model
  • migration

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