Cost of Zero-Covid: Effects of Anti-contagious Policy on Labor Market Outcomes in China


We study the effect of China’s anti-contagious policy on labor market outcomes in 2020. By exploiting variation in the duration of the zero-Covid policy in China, which is triggered by the outbreak of new cases of COVID-19 in a 14-day observation window, we find that a 10% increase (3.7 days in average) in the duration of the zero-Covid policy caused the probability of unemployment to increase by around 0.1. Unlike most large economies that suffered a serious health shock from the COVID-19 pandemic, China effectively contained the scale and the spread of the initial outbreak in 2020. This provides a special empirical setting to examine the policy effect of anti-contagious policies, and we show that the disruption on the labor market majorly comes from the zero-Covid containment measures, while health shocks are trivial on the labor market outcomes. Moreover, the zero-Covid policy decreases the labor income and hours worked for employed individuals, and the policy effect is heterogeneous across demographic groups. We also examined the policy effect during different phases of the pandemic, and the results imply that the stringent clearance during the first stage of the pandemic (ended by Feb 17, 2020) caused the negative impacts on the labor outcomes, while the subsequent dynamic clearance strategy did not generate significant disruption on the labor market outcomes in 2020.

Andong Yan
Andong Yan
PhD Candidate in Economics