Offshore IT Service Outsourcing and New Labour Export: Japanese Migrant Workers in Chinese Software Parks in Dalian

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kumiko KAWASHIMA, Macquarie University, Australia
This paper examines IT service outsourcing from Japan to software parks in Dalian in northeast China, and a new form of labour migration associated with it. Since the mid-2000s, an increasing number of educated young Japanese service workers have moved to Dalian as part of employers’ cost-cutting strategies. The main ‘skills’ required for these jobs are a native-level understanding of Japanese language and culture. Alongside local Chinese employees, they work at call centres and other workplaces in the lower echelons of the IT sector, being paid in Chinese Yuan and earning much less than they would earn in Yen in metropolitan Japan. These Japanese workers are included in the local labour markets as skilled foreign workers on relatively high incomes by local standards, yet excluded from the workforce in Japan and its benefits by virtue of being in Dalian. Based on a micro analysis of the day-to-day tasks they undertake throughout the process of knowledge transfer and localisation, this paper demonstrates the essential role these exploitable precarious workers and their transnational mobility/movability play in integrating China and Japan, Asia’s two largest economies, in the global value adding chains. It argues that the phenomenon of ‘labour export’ introduces the idea of labour migration as a way to access ‘privileges’ such as secure employment, humane working conditions and better work-life balance. This destablises the concept of labour protections and worker entitlements, simultaneously including and excluding these workers from citizenship rights as they cross national borders.