Labour Segmentation and Inequality in China

Our Aim

To identify the best regulatory and managerial responses to alleviate the labour segmentation and social inequality in China.

About the project

Three decades of sweeping economic reforms have generated a lot of positives for Chinese society: rapid economic growth, increased foreign investment and trade, and growing foreign reserves. more...

But the reforms have had a dark side. Rural and inland communities have been neglected in favour of developing urban and coastal areas. Unsustainable development has degraded China’s natural environment. And the Chinese labour force has become increasingly stratified, with a small proportion of high-income skilled and professional workers atop a much larger proportion of low-income unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

Understandably, this volatile situation has given rise to social and industrial instability; the Chinese government and trade unions have been under pressure to protect disadvantaged workers. This has led them to experiment with their regulation and innovate with their management practices. But this is completely new territory for the socialist state.

The purpose of our now-completed three-year project funded by the Australian Research Council, therefore, was to help identify the best levers to contain this economic inequality. Given the strong trade relationship between our two nations, it is undoubtedly in Australia’s interests to promote stability and prosperity in China.

To find out more about this project, email Professor Ying Zhu.


Researchers: Professor John Benson and Professor Ying Zhu, together with Professor Michael Webber of the University of Melbourne.

Work, life and flexibility project

Work, life and flexibilityThis Australian Research Council Linkage project ‘A study of flexibilities that enable workforce participation and skill development and use, and their implications for work-life outcomes in Australia’’ awarded to Prof Barbara Pocock and partners Safework SA and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is examining how improved flexibility can assist the reconciliation of work and caring responsibilities, higher levels of employment participation and increasing skill development and utilisation and thus improve the well-being of Australian workers and their families.