|dc.description.abstract||This thesis seeks to describe and explain differences in the ways in which migrant
and urban workers in China deal with problems arising out of injuries sustained at
work. A socio-legal approach is adopted and a mixed-method research design,
involving a questionnaire completed by 291 migrant and urban workers and
qualitative interviews with 22 injured workers, 28 mediators and human resource
managers, and seven judges, arbitrators and other legal actors, is used.
In the light of questionnaire findings, this study shows that the paths and outcomes of
the claiming and dispute process for migrant and urban workers are different.
Migrant workers who are dissatisfied with the initial decision are more likely to
follow a ‘private route’ for seeking compensation and to achieve a less satisfactory
outcome, while urban workers are more likely to follow an ‘administrative route’ for
claiming insurance and to achieve a more satisfactory outcome.
To explain the differences, three hypotheses are tested: a dual legal systems
hypothesis, which attributes the differences to differences in the way the law treats
migrant and urban workers; a dual labour market hypothesis, which attributes the
differences to differences in the way firms treat migrant and urban workers; and a
legal consciousness hypothesis, which attributes the differences to differences in the
beliefs and attitudes of migrant and urban workers.
The legal framework for work-related injury compensation in China gives equal
rights to migrant and urban workers but stipulates different dispute-resolution
procedures and different remedies for insured and uninsured workers. As migrant
workers are less likely to be insured than urban workers, they are less likely to be
able to take the administrative route, and have to undertake private bargaining and/or
initiate legal proceedings to seek compensation. Since the public (administrative)
legal system is superior to the private (civil) one, migrant workers often achieve less
satisfactory outcomes than urban workers.
Firm-level practices reinforce and reproduce the labour market inequalities between
migrant and urban workers. Priority for participating in the insurance scheme is
given to those who are highly skilled, formal workers, higher wage earners, workers
who are paid on a time basis and trade union members. These workers are more
likely to be urban workers. Temporary, unskilled employees and workers who have a
higher risk of experiencing an industrial accident, who are often migrant workers, are
marginalised by these practices. Such a situation is more common in foreign-owned
and collectively-owned enterprises and domestically-owned private enterprises than
in state-owned enterprises. In the case of private bargaining, whether workers
achieve a satisfactory outcome is also related to the internal dispute resolution
system of the enterprise. In state-owned-enterprises and foreign-owned enterprises,
migrant and urban workers have more equal access to internal dispute resolution
procedures than in collectively-owned and domestically-owned private enterprises.
The three hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. The study concluded that the legal
consciousness hypothesis was not supported by empirical evidence, that there was
empirical evidence to support the other two hypotheses but that dual labour market
hypothesis was more important than the dual legal systems hypothesis. The findings
suggest that regulating the state-enterprise relationship is likely to be the most
effective means of tackling the inequalities in dealing with disputes arising out of
injuries sustained at work.||en