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Bottom-Up Enforcement? Legal Mobilization as Law Enforcement in the PRC

UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese Studies hosts Mary Gallagher who will give a talk about worker's rights and labor laws in China.

October 18, 2010 3:30pm to 6:00pm

This presentation will examine the post-2007 period of more stringent labor legislation through an examination of the local responses to central government attempts to enhance workers’ rights. We argue that the Global Financial Crisis, local competition for investment, and close ties between employers and local governments reduced the state's ability to implement and enforce the new protections promulagated in 2007. However, workers’ heavy use of the legal system for dispute resolution points to a new kind of “bottom-up enforcement” of labor laws in which legal action by workers reinforces central government attempts to improve local implementation of central laws. We hypothesize that fear of worker-initiated litigation leads to changes in firm behavior in regions with high rates of disputes. Firms adjust to the new protections offered by the law by increasing protection for some kinds of workers and reducing protections for other kinds of workers. The paper highlights the inequality of legal protections at the workplace in China, both across region and across types of workers.

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