Who to Decide ‘Good Job' or ‘Bad Job'? a Bargaining Game of Production: Case Study from Pearl River Delta

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Yan HUANG, Hunan Normal University, China
Chun-Yi LEE, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
By definition, precarious work means employment that is uncertain, unpredictable, and risky from the point of view of the worker. Workers therefore are reluctant to take precarious work because of those drawbacks. However, empirical fieldwork informed us that skilled workers (here the skilled workers refer to those workers who are familiar with assembling/processing jobs) in China, especially in Pearl River Delta, they choose to do precarious work (outside of the factories) willingly. From our preliminary interviews in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, workers reflected that they have some good reasons to choose these precarious work rather than regular factory jobs.

This preliminary empirical observation challenged to our pre-understanding of precarious work. We assumed workers were forced to take precarious work; our empirical data informed us the opposite reflection from workers in the Pearl River Delta. This observation triggered us to ask this paper’s question: Who to decide ‘good job’ or ‘bad job’? In order to answer this question, this paper will start from reviewing existing literature in relation to informal work, following we will indicate different understandings of precarious work. Moreover, this paper argues that the choice of ‘good jobs’ and ‘bad jobs’ for workers in China has already been conditioned by at least following two elements. First, most of China’s production still stays in processing trade level, therefore those workers who are willing to take precarious work are the ones who have certain level of skills but their skills can’t go further. Secondly, workers are conditioned by state-and-society’s structure. Lacking of trade union or workers’ organisational support therefore workers can’t stand up in front of their employers; factory management is rather authoritarian rather than negotiable. This paper therefore argues that workers have conditional choice of ‘good job’ or ‘bad job’, in the case of workers in Pearl River Delta.