Office for Environmental Programs - Theses

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    Urban xiagang workers' life course experiences and their attitude towards migrant workers
    Gomersall, Kate ( 2012)
    Between 1998 and 2002, millions of urban workers known as the xiagang were made redundant as a consequence of SOE reforms in China. Since that time workers have had to adjust to working in a new competitive labour market that provided none of the welfare and benefits that the old SOE system did. The labour market experiences of workers from three Chinese cities were analysed to determine their life course trajectories over the 10 year period. Occupational prestige was used to determine whether workers increased, decreased or remained stable with respect to the rank of their job post redundancy. The trajectory for many workers over this period was downward sloping, with many struggling to keep their heads above the poverty line. Some have been able to take advantage of market opportunities through education and training, but many of the workers who were upwardly mobile simply found unskilled jobs that were less tedious than the manual factory work they did pre-redundancy. Mobility up or down was on a minor scale. Most of the xiagang workers are still looking for secure jobs with welfare and benefits so that they can provide for their families, even after ten years in the new system. Many of these workers would prefer to go back to an SOE; however, sector is becoming less of an issue: SOE or private firm will do. As a consequence of the transition of so many workers out of the State system, there is the beginning of a new labour market segmentation developing, with younger, better skilled and educated workers capitalising on opportunities. These workers are feeling optimistic about the future in the open market and are not threatened by migrant workers who fill the ranks of the supplementary service sector and who they feel are contributing to the general increase in prosperity. In conclusion overall the SOE system still dominates workers' mentalities while the new labour market system is benefiting a privileged few.