State Regulation, Economic Reform and Worker Rights: The Contingent Effects of China’s Labour Contract Law by Tu Lan, John Pickles & Shengjun Zhu is currently available for free download.
Abstract: In 2007/2008 the Labour Contract Law was introduced and enacted in China. Responses to the law have varied enormously. For many, it represented a major change in the conditions under which workers and employers can enter into contracts and, as a result, it has been seen as an important step in empowering workers to shape their conditions of work. For others, the law lacked teeth and was not implemented. In practice, the law has had different effects within and among different types of firms depending on their ownership structure, product mix, market orientation, size and geographical location. The differences are particularly clear among private sector firms and between and among private and public sector enterprises. This article outlines the conditions and terms of the 1995 Labour Law and how the 2008 Labour Contract Law changes these, particularly for global buyers sourcing from China and for workers and enterprises in China. In particular, it assesses the differential impacts of the new law on permanent and temporary workers in state-owned and private enterprises, and between private- and public-sector employees, with an emphasis in the latter case on the liberalisation, not enhanced protection, of workers’ rights.