Building China: Precarious Employment Among Migrant Construction Workers

TitleBuilding China: Precarious Employment Among Migrant Construction Workers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSwider, Sarah
JournalWork Employment & Society
Pagination41 - 59
Date Published2015
KeywordsChina, China precarious work, construction work, employment configuration, informal labor market, informal work, migrant workers, migration, precarious employment, urban employment

In China, informal precarious work has exploded and now represents a majority of urban employment. This article explores precarious informal work by presenting a case study of migrant workers in the construction industry. Despite the fact that these workers are all unregistered migrants performing informal construction work, there exists a diversity of labor market situations, working conditions and work relations. This article introduces the concept of ‘employment configuration’ to analyze this diversity and to bring informal workers, who are operating outside of state regulations, back into our industrial labor relations framework. The concept of employment configuration also refocuses our attention from the dyadic worker–employer relationship to the more complex triad of the worker, the employer and the state, shedding light on varying sources of control and exploitation of these migrant workers.