HRM, Work, and Employment in China

HRM, Work, and Employment in China

HRM, Work, and Employment in China

HRM, Work, and Employment in China


During recent years there has been a growing interest in the way patterns of employment relations are changing in China. This up-to-the-minute book reviews the policy and practice of human resource management, work and employment in China over the last fifty years at both the macro and micro level. It fills the gaps in existing literature by addressing a number of thematic issues:

  • the growing inequality in employment
  • public sector reform
  • pay systems
  • vocational training.

It explores, contemplates and reveals this dynamic subject through a combination of rigorous research and first-hand interviews with Chinese practitioners, and is a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in Chinese society, Asian studies, comparative studies, human resource management, international business and employment relations.


China has one of the largest labour forces in the world with a population of nearly 1.3 billion, over half of whom were in employment in 2002. About two-thirds of them are rural workers. China also has one of the highest labour participation rates in the world (over 80 per cent). As one of the largest exporting countries and the second largest beneficiary country of foreign direct investments (FDIs), China presents itself as one of the economically most important nations in the world. However, China's increasing interdependence with the world economy has been achieved through a period of political, social and economic change over the past twenty-five years. A major implication of these profound changes is how employment is (re-)organized and work experienced by its 0.7 billion workers (see Tables 1.1 and 1.2). Indeed, the employment landscape has changed significantly over the past two decades in at least three major dimensions.

First, lay-offs and early retirement had been a standard feature for state-owned enterprise (SOE) employees from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s when millions of workers were laid off, many of them consequently becoming bewildered and unsuccessful job seekers. This radical downsizing was accompanied by a series of far-reaching reforms in personnel/human resource policies and practices in the state sector, with the erosion of job security and welfare provision and tightened performance management as the major outcomes. If changes at enterprise level during the first wave of SOE reforms in the mid- and late 1980s were limited, then the level of organizational change and innovation of management techniques since the mid-1990s was far more evident (Ding and Warner 1999). These institutional discontinuities brought to an end the organized dependence of the state workers on their employer (Walder 1986; Lee 1999), which was crucial for sustaining paternalism, and called for a new mode of managing employment relationships.

A second major change has been the rapid growth of the private sector with the emergence of diverse ownership forms, for example, multinational corporations (MNCs), international joint ventures (JVs), domestic private

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