Prof. Andreas Bieler and I have been awarded a grant of £275k by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a project on ‘Globalisation, national transformation and workers’ rights: an analysis of Chinese labour within the global economy’ (RES-062-23-2777; full project proposal). The project runs from 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2014. On this blog, I will regularly provide a discussion of empirical findings related to this project.
The current restructuring in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is of phenomenal importance to the global economy. Millions of workers are added to the global workforce and it is cheap labour, which makes the PRC so attractive for foreign direct investment (FDI). Unsurprisingly, it is workers, who are most under pressure as a result. Chinese workers often work in conditions of super-exploitation, while workers elsewhere either become unemployed, because production is moved to the PRC, or they are pressured into accepting lower wages and worse working conditions through the threat of production transfer to China.
The project will investigate the role of Chinese labour within these structural changes at the production, national and international level. It will be analysed to what extent trade unions and NGOs have been able to protect the interests of Chinese workers within China and through cooperation with international labour organizations.
Methodologically, this project will draw on existing data such as FDI flows and GDP levels, semi-structured interviews with workers and managers, representatives of the official Chinese trade union, informal labour organisations, the Chinese government, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Labour Organization. Official documents of these organizations will also be consulted.
The blog itself, while focusing on the project, is not entirely of an academic nature. For conducting this project, I have to go to China for several field trips and also attend relevant international conferences. The purpose of this blog is to share my understandings about Chinese labour. The content of blog papers will come from my observations of field research or conferences/workshops which relate to this topic. In other words, what I will produce on the blog are my personal reflections about Chinese labour. Blog posts may not be purely analytical articles, but they will stem from my first hand data. Certainly, I welcome comments on my observations, as further engagement is the very purpose to establish this blog in the first place.
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