Gendering China's Construction Industry

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sarah SWIDER, Wayne State University, USA
This paper explores the gendering of construction work and how that shapes what are considered rights and the potential opportunities to organize. In China, in the last 35 years the construction industry has been an important engine of China's economic growth and in the process it has absorbed more than 45 million migrant workers, mostly men, from the countryside.  During this period, work has been (re) organized in a gendered way which has not only made it increasingly precarious but also shifted risk unto workers.  While most of these migrant workers are men, there has been an increase in women in the industry, making visible the gendered organization of construction work and the gendering of construction workers as "single” men.  This paper explores why there has been an increase in women in the industry, how they are being integrated into the organization of work, and how that makes the gendering visible. It shows how struggles over wages, working hours and safety on the jobsite are limited by the fact that they are “single men”, their protests are more easily characterized as dangerous and unruly, and hence met with violence, and paternalism limits organizing efforts. Finally, it looks at how women entering the industry change some of these gendered dynamics.