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Working Time in Transition:The dual task of standardization and flexibilization in China
Working Time in Transition:The dual task of standardization and flexiblization in China
A research project—working time and working arrangement of International Labor Organization— hosted by Professor Zeng Xiangquan has completed the main report “Working Time in Transition:The dual task of standardization and flexiblization in China”.
Based on the surveys of working hours and working arrangement at three metropolises (Beijing,Shanghai,Changsha) and the proof of results of surveys by contrasting them with research results from academic community and government departments such as National Bureau of Statistics of China and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security ,this report provide one of few systematic analysis on working time in China.
 It is revealed that the dual trends of standardization and flexiblization have been unfolding, reflecting the unique process of economic transition to market economy. The laws and regulations have been adopted to standardize working time through limiting daily and weekly hours, although the co-existence of two working hour standards (44 and 40 hours) appears to have led to confusions at the workplace. In practice, while these standard hours are widely worked, a considerable proportion of workers are working either short (less than 40 hours) or long hours (more than 50 hours). Yet, due to the lack of reliable time-series data on working time, it is not clear whether this indicates the diversification of working hours in China. At the same time, the laws and regulations encourage the introduction of greater flexibility in the organization of working time. Different types of working time arrangements are already introduced among enterprises, and the surveys show that, in some cases, standard working time is not “standard” any more. In addition, it is one of important findings in this report that Chinese workers are interested in flexible working time patterns, although the reasons for such attitudes or preferences need to be further analyzed. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor the dynamics of standardization and flexibilization and their impacts on actual working time patterns.
Long working hours in China deserve special attention. Certainly, major cause for long working hours is frequent and long overtime working, and surveys confirm that overtime work is widely undertaken. It is also important to note that overtime work is often not properly compensated. This phenomenon should be evaluated against the fact that most workers do not object overtime work and that such acceptance is notably highly among workers who are properly compensated for their overtime work. This indicates the presence of strong income incentive among workers and the need for ensuring proper compensation for overtime work (which is stipulated in the laws and regulations). 
With regard to working time research, in-depth studies on working time are currently scarce in China, due to the lack of comprehensive official data. Enterprise-level studies are also difficult given the lack of working time records at the workplace and employers’ unwillingness to participate in surveys, especially in private enterprises. Although a preliminary description of employees’ evaluation of existing working hours schemes is provided in this report, the subject of the relationship between working hours arrangements and the lives, job security and satisfaction is still a brand-new field that requires further in-depth studies.
Other members of the research project: LuLiang, SahaDe, LiLi, ZhaoLiang, ZhangYi, ZhangJin, ZhengYong wu, YanYan, ZouWenqin.
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