Proposal preview

Social indicators and policies toward labor precariousness in a growth context: an Eurasian comparative, connected and long-term approach

“De-standardization of work” and growing insecurity for the workers in the context of the global diffusion of neoliberalism and economic stagnation of the old industrial nations having been abundantly studied in the last two decades, a quite normative view of what is labor precariousness has tended to impose itself in the social sciences. This induced the risk, when taking a longer historical view of what as been “insecurity” at work, of anachronistic analysis. This panel therefore proposes to understand and compare forms of “precariousness” as they have been understood by using “social indicators” in the context of the development and global diffusion of new knowledge and governance technologies, from the beginning of the twentieth century, through the postwar growth period, and finally into contemporary high growth China. The participants will discuss how expertise, that developed and circulated in particular historical circumstances, such as the interwar rationalization movement, the great depression and World War Two, contributed to shape the postwar and high growth period social question and the labor and macroeconomic policies that were supposed to eliminate poverty. A particular focus will be made on the genesis of the concept of “minimum wage”, that embodies, more than other socio-economic regulation institutions, the expertise produced by social reformers from the beginning of the twentieth century, the new collective bargaining mechanism that emerged after WWII, and the politics of productivity that dominated labor and social policies. This long term historical analysis can provide a more “complex” and “rooted” vision of the fragmentation of labor market hierarchies and of the diverse policies they induced. What are the consequences for the workers situation, of the trade- offs between growth and protection? How should one think about simultaneously economic and social regulations that transcend the classical divides between profit and redistribution, and between state and market, and how should one rethink the current crisis situation as a result? These are the key questions that this panel intends to raise.

Organizer(s)

  • King Chi Chan City University of Hongkong sskcchan@gmail.com China
  • Yoko Tanaka Tsukuba University meereskind@gmail.com Japan
  • Bernard Thomann Inalco thomann@inalco.fr France

Session members

  • King Chi Chan, City University of Hongkong
  • Gilles Guiheux, Université Paris Diderot
  • Morgane Labbé, EHESS
  • Martine Mespoulet, Université de Nantes
  • Paul-André Rosental, SciencesPo
  • Yoko Tanaka, Tsukuba University
  • Hiraku Tanaka, Kobe University
  • Bernard Thomann, Inalco

Discussant(s)

  • Manuela Martini Université de Lyon manuela.martini3@gmail.com

Papers

Panel abstract

This panel proposes to understand and compare forms of “precariousness” as they have been understood by using “social indicators” in the context of the development and global diffusion of new knowledge and governance technologies, from the beginning of the twentieth century, through the postwar growth period, in France, Japan and Comecon countries, and finally into contemporary high growth China. The participants will discuss how expertise developed and circulated in the particular historical circumstances of those areas. A particular focus will be made on the genesis of the concept of “minimum wage”, that embodies, more than other socio-economic regulation institutions, the expertise produced by social reformers from the beginning of the twentieth century, the new collective bargaining mechanism that emerged after WWII, and the politics of productivity that dominated labor and social policies.

1st half

The minimum income: an indicator shaped by social movements and surveys in Eastern Europe (1900-1939)

Morgane Labbé (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, EHESS, France)

Social surveys on family living, and in particular on the budget of workers households, that were conducted from the 19th century onward in a number of countries had provided a lot of empirical material on family consumption and expenditures that were used for various purposes - drawing attention to poverty, supporting social claims for better income, collecting knowledge on family change, building standards and at least improving the economic theory. The issue of this talk is to highlight the specific path followed by Eastern European economists in a period of political turmoil but also stimulating for innovations in social and economic sciences. Focusing on the case of Poland, I will describe how welfare movements inspired by social reformist programs elaborated at a local scale with modest means ambitious budget surveys to document the living conditions of poor families. Emphasize will be put on the division that occurred in the 1930s between this tradition of political use of the surveys, i.e. to pressure for the enactment of social...

Social surveys on family living, and in particular on the budget of workers households, that were conducted from the 19th century onward in a number of countries had provided a lot of empirical material on family consumption and expenditures that were used for various purposes - drawing attention to poverty, supporting social claims for better income, collecting knowledge on family change, building standards and at least improving the economic theory. The issue of this talk is to highlight the specific path followed by Eastern European economists in a period of political turmoil but also stimulating for innovations in social and economic sciences. Focusing on the case of Poland, I will describe how welfare movements inspired by social reformist programs elaborated at a local scale with modest means ambitious budget surveys to document the living conditions of poor families. Emphasize will be put on the division that occurred in the 1930s between this tradition of political use of the surveys, i.e. to pressure for the enactment of social and labour legislations, and their use in the frame of new economic models that enhanced the use of indicators like the minimum income built with these data.

The Use of Social Indicators to measure Development and Well Being in capitalist and Communist countries in the 1970s and the 1980s

Martine Mespoulet, (University of Nantes, France)

During the 1960s the social indicators movement emerged in the United States of America following the need to find out new indicators measuring the social dimensions of economic growth. The Gross Domestic Product (or national income) was considered to be an uncompleted indicator for measuring the national welfare for it was measuring the increase of production and of wealth and not the quality of life conditions. On the other hand, a new awareness of social problems emerged in European communist countries and resulted in growing demand for social statistical data. Considering the fact that there was relatively little experience in this respect in communist countries, it seemed possible to utilise and adapt the western experience of social indicators in those countries. The paper will enlighten the manner how social indicators were constructed and utilised on both sides of the Iron curtain in the 1970s and the 1980s.

During the 1960s the social indicators movement emerged in the United States of America following the need to find out new indicators measuring the social dimensions of economic growth. The Gross Domestic Product (or national income) was considered to be an uncompleted indicator for measuring the national welfare for it was measuring the increase of production and of wealth and not the quality of life conditions. On the other hand, a new awareness of social problems emerged in European communist countries and resulted in growing demand for social statistical data. Considering the fact that there was relatively little experience in this respect in communist countries, it seemed possible to utilise and adapt the western experience of social indicators in those countries. The paper will enlighten the manner how social indicators were constructed and utilised on both sides of the Iron curtain in the 1970s and the 1980s.

The trouble about minimum wages in postwar France, between macroeconomic policy and working class households’ precariousness” 

Paul-André Rosental (SciencesPo Paris, France)

Life standards indicators and the development of a minimum salary in Japan 

Bernard Thomann (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, France)

The idea of "living wage" (seikatsukyû), was developed during the WW2 from an expertise - represented by budget surveys, labour sciences or nutritional sciences - built since the 1920s. It was taken up and improved after Japanese defeat, integrated into the labor unions' demand under the concept of "minimum cost of living" (Saitei seikeihi). Parallel to a process of socialisation of wages at company level, the minimum wage ended up being the subject of a law in 1959 and a revision in the early 1970s. A minimum wage was set for each department and industry by a tripartite commission based on a basket of prices and physiological criteria resulting from scientific research begun several decades ago. But can the absence of a national minimum wage also be interpreted as an institutionalization, more than a correction, of the hierarchical nature of the Japanese labour market, and thus of a Japanese "precariousness...

The idea of "living wage" (seikatsukyû), was developed during the WW2 from an expertise - represented by budget surveys, labour sciences or nutritional sciences - built since the 1920s. It was taken up and improved after Japanese defeat, integrated into the labor unions' demand under the concept of "minimum cost of living" (Saitei seikeihi). Parallel to a process of socialisation of wages at company level, the minimum wage ended up being the subject of a law in 1959 and a revision in the early 1970s. A minimum wage was set for each department and industry by a tripartite commission based on a basket of prices and physiological criteria resulting from scientific research begun several decades ago. But can the absence of a national minimum wage also be interpreted as an institutionalization, more than a correction, of the hierarchical nature of the Japanese labour market, and thus of a Japanese "precariousness regime"?

2nd half

Hidden precariousness; what temporary workers from rural areas put in Japanese society during Japanese high economic growth period?

Hikaru Tanaka (Kobe University, Japan)

Japanese high economic growth period is known as the period of high equality. It is said that Japanese society reached 'hundreds of million people (total population) are all in middle-class' in that era. The myth of Japanese social equality still remains, though the lost decades have made social inequality larger. In 21st century Japan, there's Act for minimum wages but even the legal minimum wage sometimes never assumes minimum living standards. Low income workers often envy poor people who get benefit from Public Assistance Act, because the pension is higher than their income. So, the idea of Japanese minimum wage doesn't mean living wage for workers. What made this concept and social structure? This paper show how temporary workers from rural areas and their agriculture’s income as sideline work in home put the system without realizing during high economic growth period, 1950s-70s.

Japanese high economic growth period is known as the period of high equality. It is said that Japanese society reached 'hundreds of million people (total population) are all in middle-class' in that era. The myth of Japanese social equality still remains, though the lost decades have made social inequality larger. In 21st century Japan, there's Act for minimum wages but even the legal minimum wage sometimes never assumes minimum living standards. Low income workers often envy poor people who get benefit from Public Assistance Act, because the pension is higher than their income. So, the idea of Japanese minimum wage doesn't mean living wage for workers. What made this concept and social structure? This paper show how temporary workers from rural areas and their agriculture’s income as sideline work in home put the system without realizing during high economic growth period, 1950s-70s.

Precariousness in Workplaces. Comparative Study on Germany and Japan in Case of Heavy and Retail Industry

Yoko Tanaka ( Havard Yenching Institute / University of Tsukuba, Japan)

This paper examines the historical characteristics of the workers who are engaged in the lower work category in corporations and are adjacent to labor precariousness in Germany and Japan. From the perspective of the industrialization, the structure of working people in the company would be explored, taking example of heavy and retail industry in two countries. Through this investigation, I would emphasize the significant importance of human resource management system in corporation as one of the social indicator to explain the labor precariousness. The institutional conditions of the management system in corporations would be firmly connected with the stratification of the workers, including lower and unstable wages, less social and corporate security, insecurity in labor market, and the status of corporate inclusion and exclusion, which could demonstrate a substantial difference in the same industry categories in two countries.

This paper examines the historical characteristics of the workers who are engaged in the lower work category in corporations and are adjacent to labor precariousness in Germany and Japan. From the perspective of the industrialization, the structure of working people in the company would be explored, taking example of heavy and retail industry in two countries. Through this investigation, I would emphasize the significant importance of human resource management system in corporation as one of the social indicator to explain the labor precariousness. The institutional conditions of the management system in corporations would be firmly connected with the stratification of the workers, including lower and unstable wages, less social and corporate security, insecurity in labor market, and the status of corporate inclusion and exclusion, which could demonstrate a substantial difference in the same industry categories in two countries.

The minimum wage policy in China since 2004

Gilles Guiheux (Paris Diderot University, France)

The contribution will look at the minimum wage policy and practice in mainland China. Minimum wage regulations have been in place since 1993, as a consequence of China ratifying the International Labour Organization Convention Number 26. But the minimum wage requirement then imposed was from from universal. On March 1st 2004, the 2004 Rules for Minimum Regulations replaced the 1993 Regulations, expanding the scope of covered employees. The paper will touch look at the mode of fixing, the roles of the central state and local governments and of the Chinese Federation of Trade Unions in fixing the wages. It will also look at how the issue is discussed in China by both academics and experts on one side, and the media on another side, tackling issues such as enforcing the regulation, its effect on employment, on poverty reduction, on gender gaps or on the international competitivity of the Chinese industry.

The contribution will look at the minimum wage policy and practice in mainland China. Minimum wage regulations have been in place since 1993, as a consequence of China ratifying the International Labour Organization Convention Number 26. But the minimum wage requirement then imposed was from from universal. On March 1st 2004, the 2004 Rules for Minimum Regulations replaced the 1993 Regulations, expanding the scope of covered employees. The paper will touch look at the mode of fixing, the roles of the central state and local governments and of the Chinese Federation of Trade Unions in fixing the wages. It will also look at how the issue is discussed in China by both academics and experts on one side, and the media on another side, tackling issues such as enforcing the regulation, its effect on employment, on poverty reduction, on gender gaps or on the international competitivity of the Chinese industry.

Informalization and Re-formalization: an historical review of employment relations in China since 1978

Chris King-Chi Chan (City University of Hong Kong)

Taking a historical perspective, this article reviews the transformation of employment relations in China since 1978. It is suggested the process of informalization and re-formalization has taken place in the post-socialist country under a changing political economy. First, in 1980s and 1990s, the reform and privatization of state -owned enterprises (SOEs) had destroyed the ‘iron rice bowls’ of the urban workers; meanwhile, millions of rural migrant workers have been mobilized to join the labour market for the foreign-owned enterprises (FOEs) with little legal protection. Second, a legal framework for formalizing the employment has been introduced and gradually implemented since mid-1990s in the country, especially the Labour Law in 1995, the Labour Contract Law in 2007 and the Social Security Law in 2011. Third, as a response to the improved labour protection, agency labour has been widely used by many large companies, SOE and FOEs alike since mid-2000s. Finally, the industrial...

Taking a historical perspective, this article reviews the transformation of employment relations in China since 1978. It is suggested the process of informalization and re-formalization has taken place in the post-socialist country under a changing political economy. First, in 1980s and 1990s, the reform and privatization of state -owned enterprises (SOEs) had destroyed the ‘iron rice bowls’ of the urban workers; meanwhile, millions of rural migrant workers have been mobilized to join the labour market for the foreign-owned enterprises (FOEs) with little legal protection. Second, a legal framework for formalizing the employment has been introduced and gradually implemented since mid-1990s in the country, especially the Labour Law in 1995, the Labour Contract Law in 2007 and the Social Security Law in 2011. Third, as a response to the improved labour protection, agency labour has been widely used by many large companies, SOE and FOEs alike since mid-2000s. Finally, the industrial upgrading in the past decade has created opportunities for a stable employment relation in the domestic high-technology industry, but the blooming of service sector has further informalized the labour force.

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