Individual rights and collective rights: Labor's predicament in China

Feng Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Despite the government's active legislation to protect workers, labor rights still remain widely ignored and poorly enforced in China. Structural constrains, such as the state's development strategy biased on efficiency over equity, tight labor markets, and the lack of an effective safety net, cannot fully explain why Chinese workers have had so little impact on the environment in which they work and the violations of their rights often occur. Using Marshall's theory of citizenship rights, this article explores the structure of China's labor rights for an explanation. It argues that while Chinese labor legislation stipulates workers' individual rights regarding contracts, wages, working conditions, pensions, and so on, it fails to provide them with collective rights, namely the rights to organize, to strike, and to bargain collectively in a meaningful sense. The lack of collective rights is one of the major factors that render workers' individual rights vulnerable, hollow, unenforceable, or often disregarded. Labor legislation that enables workers to act collectively is crucial for safeguarding their individual rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-79
Number of pages21
JournalCommunist and Post-Communist Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Labor legislation
  • Labor rights


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