Expatriates and Changing Employment Practices of Transnational Companies

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Minori MATSUTANI, Doshisha University, Japan
Expatriates have been categorized as a privileged group because of their economic and institutional advantages in the process of migration. They may have been, but rapid social change led by globalization and neoliberalism is changing their social status and employment situation. This paper aims to show a new diversity of expatriates so as to cast doubt on the general image of expatriates as global elites, using the case of Japanese transnational companies in China.

Transnational flow of Japanese expatriates to emerging countries in Asia was expanded since late 1980s. Intra-company relocation of managers and engineers for the purpose of knowledge and technology transfer was widespread at this early stage. Japanese transnational companies introduced a new transnational employment system in 1990s, in which workers moved individually to the destination and were hired directly by overseas branches, usually through staffing agencies. Now two different types of expatriates works in the same workplace in Japanese transnational companies. The latter migrant workers are positioned relatively lower in the hierarchy as well as in terms of remuneration and benefits than company-specific expatriates and are called “locally employed workers.”

How and why did Japanese transnational companies introduce the new expatriate system? How does this new employment practice affect the social status and the employment environment of expatriates? Based on empirical research in Shanghai and Hong Kong since 2009, this paper examines the new phase of globalized employment practices in Japanese transnational companies.