Sunghoon Kim, Ph.D. Candidate
ILR's International Experience Grant helps Ph.D. candidate conduct preliminary field study for dissertation
On the streets of industrialized cities in China, it is not uncommon to observe several hundreds of horse powered imported cars ‘harmoniously’ mingling with literally one-horse powered vehicles and one-human powered carriers (see picture below). This illustrates the significant socio-economic gap between those who enjoy the fruit of rapid economic development and those who do not.
Recently, Chinese government has attempted to promote the ‘harmonious society’. The main idea of the harmonious society campaign is to moderate the inequality between regions and economic classes. Along this line of effort, the Chinese government just has passed a new labor contract law that aims to encourage the employee advocacy role of Chinese trade unions.
Thanks to the International Experience Grant, I was able to see whether this national effort toward the envisaged ‘harmonious society’ is really producing some results at workplaces, especially in the contexts of foreign direct investment. Over this summer, I have traveled across several coastal cities of China and interviewed scores of corporate HR managers and local trade union leaders. On the surface, I could observe some important recent changes such as the rapid increase of unionization rate. However, on-site interviews revealed that the many of the changes are only symbolic and average rank-and-file workers do not feel the difference.
- Sunghoon Kim