Whose Hard Times?
Whose Hard Times?
Explaining Autoworkers Strike Waves in Recent-Day China
This chapter carries out an in-depth analysis of the transformation of China's automobile industry and its labor force over the past two decades, with particular attention on how shop-floor, national, and global processes interact in complex ways to produce the specific industrial relations and dynamics of labor unrest in the Chinese automobile industry. It argues that the massive foreign investment in China's auto sector through joint ventures and the increased scale and concentration of automobile production have created and strengthened a new generation of autoworkers with growing workplace bargaining power and grievances. However, the acute contradictory pressures of simultaneously pursuing profitability and maintaining legitimacy with labor have driven large state-owned automakers and Sino-foreign joint ventures to follow a policy of labor force dualism, drawing boundaries between formal and temporary workers. While formal workers enjoy high wages, generous benefits, and relatively secure employment, temporary workers suffer comparatively low wages, unsecure employment, and heavier and dirtier job assignments. Temporary and other low-wage autoworkers have also become the main source of militancy in the auto industry.
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