Problems of human capital development when employing migrant workers

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
Journal / PublicationJournal of Chinese Human Resource Management
Volume10
Issue number1/2
Online published14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to investigate how human capital of rural migrant workers is regulated and manipulated at ten petrol stations in one Chinese coastal city. The research is based on ethnographic research with participatory observation at forecourts and interviews with managers and workers. This paper argues that human capital development is inhibited by patterns of discrimination, such as in the treatment of rural migrants in China’s coastal urban areas. Instead, human capital is developed as migrant workers learn to resist management rules by relying on social capital networks. This requires management to confront or acquits some control to workers, which itself may benefit employers in certain circumstances. There has been a tendency towards analysing non-financial capital in positivist frameworks within human resource management (HRM), in which human capital and social capital are seen in terms of their contribution to profits. There has also been a tendency within Chinese HRM to sometimes understand social networks in normative cultural terms, in which Chinese identities as being or seeking harmonies.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper, based on a qualitative research, shows that a more nuanced approach may be needed, one that understands tensions and countervailing forces. The research is based on ethnographic research with intensive participatory observation at forecourts and interviews with managers and workers.
Findings: The way human capital can be developed to restrict management prerogative, though this may benefit employer’s interests.
Originality/value: There has been a tendency towards analysing non-financial capital in positivist frameworks within HRM, in which human capital and social capital are seen in terms of their contribution to profits. There has also been a tendency within Chinese HRM to sometimes understand social networks in normative cultural terms, in which Chinese identities as being or seeking harmonies. This paper shows a more nuanced approach may be needed, one that understands tensions and countervailing forces.

Research Area(s)

  • China oil industry, Human capital, Migrant workers, Social capital