From iron rice bowl to the world’s biggest sweatshop : globalization, institutional constraints, and the rights of Chinese workers
Social Service Review
University of Chicago Press
Local government, Social insurance, Public assistance programs, Labor unions, Migrant labor, Government officials, Employment, Labor law, Government reform
This article discusses how China’s institutional constraints combine with its integration into the global economy to suppress its workers’ rights. The rapid expansion of China’s market economy is the consequence of the government’s active embrace of global capitalism and global capitalists’ ongoing search for new markets and lower production costs. China’s traditional socialist labor relationships collapsed as a result of state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform and the emergence of private enterprises. In the wake of these events, China’s leaders promulgated new labor legislation and social insurance schemes, but these initiatives fail to safeguard workers’ rights effectively. This is because the SOEs fail to compensate their workers properly, local authorities do not actively monitor labor abuses, the judicial system cannot effectively defend workers’ rights, and the Chinese government suppresses efforts to organize independent labor unions. In short, global capitalism, together with China’s authoritarian polity, has limited workers’ rights and undermined their well-being.
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Chan, C. K., & Peng, Z. (2011). From iron rice bowl to the world’s biggest sweatshop: Globalization, institutional constraints, and the rights of Chinese workers. Social Service Review, 85(3), 421-445. doi: 10.1086/662328