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

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 08:50
Oral Presentation
Chun-Yi LEE, School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Jing WANG, School of Sociology, University of 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, often choose to do precarious work (outside of the factories) willingly. From our preliminary interviews in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, workers reflected that they have good reasons to take precarious work rather than regular factory jobs.

This preliminary empirical observation challenged 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 decides if a job is a ‘good job’ or a ‘bad job’? In order to answer this question, this paper will start from reviewing existing literature in relation to informal work and map out different understandings of precarious work. Conventionally, ‘good job’ refers to permanent position and high pay, most of workers when they face the choices to choose stability of work or higher payment, they would opt for the stability because the implication of stability includes pension and social security provided by the permanent position. Nevertheless, our empirical findings pointed us an opposite direction. Skilled workers in the Pearl River Delta would choose higher wages than permanent position, which begs the questions of China’s social welfare system as a whole, and also the imbalanced state-society relationship, that without a trade union or workers’ organisational support, workers chose to have short-term material interests in order to insure their own bargaining power in the production.