The Chinese Triangle of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: Comparative Institutional Analyses

By Alvin Y. So; Nan Lin et al. | Go to book overview

5

JOB STRESS IN THE ERA OF MARKET REFORMS: MANUFACTURING WORKERS IN URBAN SHANGHAI

Gina Lai

Since China launched its economic reforms in 1978, scholars have been studying the impact of market forces on a socialist economy and have seen impressive growth in production efficiency and tremendous improvement in people's material life. Alongside these economic accomplishments, changing industrial relations, increasing income inequality, and rising unemployment have also been observed. However, the subjective well-being of Chinese workers after the reforms has been relatively underresearched.

With the weakening role of state planning in economic production during the reform era, the nonstate sector has experienced rapid expansion and proliferation. Full employment and welfare security are no longer the primary goals of work units. Performance of individuals and enterprises is tied to economic rewards, particularly in the nonstate sectors (Solinger 1995). Variations in workplace dynamics also arise, together with diversification of economic organizations (Luk 1995). All these changes may have a significant impact on workers' psychological well-being, and the impact may vary according to forms of economic ownership. This chapter thus explores and compares work-related stress as experienced by workers in the state and nonstate sectors. Since the nonstate sector is, in fact, a collection of various types of economic structures whose activities fall outside the central planning system, this chapter focuses on two major types of nonstate work organizations, namely, joint ventures and private enterprises.

The chapter begins with a brief overview of the reform policies and related changes in industrial relations, whose psychological implications for Chinese workers are discussed. Then, hypotheses related to work-related stress are formulated and tested with empirical data. The implications of the findings are discussed in the final section.

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