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Why workers’ turnover is so high: managed flexibility and the intermediary chain of China’s migrant labor market

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Abstract

Looking at how the global factories organize and control their labor forces sustainably and effectively, a considerable number of studies have focused on the politics of production but have seldom discussed the organization of the labor market beyond the workplace. Based on fieldwork about labor recruitment in the manufacturing industry in City W, this article analyzes the organizational ecology of the current labor market and its embedded institutional environment. It shows that to satisfy factories’ demand for flexible labor, the organizational ecology of the labor market has developed an intermediary chain characterized by multilevel outsourcing, an elaborate division of labor, and constant internal competition and cooperation. Although the intermediary chain coordinates flexible production, its profit-making model and business strategies drive up labor costs, consistently aggravating labor turnover and constructing low-skilled labor force. Local government, enterprises, and workers are the three forces constituting the institutional environment that nurtures this intermediary chain. Each of them makes use of “flexibility” for their own interests, unintentionally increasing the risks to the production system.

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APA

Liu, Z., & Zhu, J. (2020). Why workers’ turnover is so high: managed flexibility and the intermediary chain of China’s migrant labor market. Journal of Chinese Sociology, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40711-020-00120-z

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