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Labor Work Force Composition

In 1921 nomadic herders and monks dominated Mongolia's work force. Foreigners - Russians and Chinese - comprised the vast majority of the work force for all other occupations, namely agriculture, trade, handicrafts, and services. Mongolia faced the task of transforming the labor force into one capable of filling the variety of occupations required by a modern socialist economy. At first, the new government encountered numerous problems in building its work force, including illiteracy, the lack of qualified personnel, labor shortages, and attitudes inconsistent with systematized work and regular hours. As a result of these problems and the economy's initially slow development, the labor force remained primarily agrarian until the mid-1960s.

The composition of Mongolia's labor force changed slowly in the 1920s and the 1930s. In 1924 party leader Horloyn Choybalsan remarked that Mongolia had no more than 150 industrial workers. By 1932 the country had 2,335 "workers and employees" (employees were defined as nonproduction state employees, such as administrators and professionals), of which 302 were industrial workers. By 1936 industrial workers had increased to 2,400, and they had surpassed 10,000 in 1939. There were 33,100 workers and employees in 1940; nevertheless, 90 percent of the work force was engaged in agrarian pursuits - primarily, in herding. The distribution of the worker and employee work force in 1940 was 41.4 percent in industry, 29.3 percent in nonproduction occupations, 3.0 percent in agriculture, 4.2 percent in trade and communications, and 2.2 percent in trade. Large-scale transformation of the work force accompanied the major effort to industrialize and to collectivize agriculture after World War II. By 1960 agricultural and forestry workers represented 60.8 percent of the labor force; industrial and nonagricultural material production workers, 26.2 percent; and employees engaged in nonmaterial production labor, 13 percent. In 1985 agricultural and forestry workers dropped to 33.8 percent of the work force, while industrial and nonagricultural production workers rose to 39.8 percent, and nonproduction workers, to 26.2 percent.

Furthermore, large numbers of women entered all sectors of the economy as it developed. Women and children traditionally took part in herding activities; as the economy expanded, so did women's participation. Between 1960 and 1985, women's representation in the "worker and employee" work force rose from 30.8 percent to 51.3 percent. According to the 1979 census, women comprised 45.6 percent of the work force. Sixty-nine percent of all employed women, or 42.5 percent of the work force, were engaged in material production. Thirty-one percent of all employed women were engaged in nonmaterial production; these women comprised 54.6 percent of all workers in nonmaterial production.

Females in the Work Force by Sector, 1979 Census

SectorFemale Employees
as Percentage
of Sector
Females in Sector
as Percentage of
Employed Females
Material production
Trade and procurement57.88.9
Total material production42.5169.02
Nonmaterial production
Education, art, and culture62.611.5
Finance, credit, and insurance59.30.6
Housing and domestic services54.93.1
Public health and social security78.89.4
Science and scientific service41.31.4
Total nonmaterial production54.6131.03
1) Average.
2) Figures do not add to total because of rounding.
3) As published.
Source: Based on information from Mongolia, Central Statistical Board,
National Economy of the MPR for 65 Years, 1921-1986, Ulaanbaatar, 1986, 144-47.

Foreign labor played a major role in the development of Mongolia's economy. Because of labor shortages, Chinese and Soviet workers initially constituted a large proportion of the industrial and construction force. In 1927 about 26 percent of industrial workers were Mongolian, and in 1934 about 50 percent were foreign. In 1940 Mongolians made up 87.7 percent of all workers and employees; 6.6 percent were Chinese; and 5.7 percent were Soviets. In the 1950s, China sent approximately 10,000 laborers to Mongolia to engage in such construction projects as road and bridge building. In 1961 the number of Chinese workers peaked at 13,150; then, it declined, in the wake of the Sino-Soviet split. Soviet citizens had a major role in the Mongolian economy as advisers and employees of joint Mongolian-Soviet enterprises, particularly after 1960. Smaller numbers of East European experts also came to Mongolia after its 1962 entry into Comecon. At the beginning of the 1980s, about 32,000 Soviets and 15,000 East Europeans were working in Mongolia.

Last Update: 2010-12-07