Union commitment and participation in China: does enterprise type matter?

Ed SNAPE*, Andy W. Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper aims to evaluate the suggestion that the antecedents of union commitment and participation may differ between foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China based on the view that SOE unions will focus more strongly on the traditional dual role, emphasising on managerial functions and employee welfare. Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on employee surveys in two enterprises in Shanghai, one FIE and one SOE. Employee attitudes towards the union and enterprise were measured using a self-completion questionnaire, and data were analysed using structural equation modelling. Findings: Findings suggest that pro-union attitudes were more salient in the FIE context. In contrast, SOE workers’ allegiance to the union appeared to be a less reflection of pro-union attitudes and was more narrowly instrumental. Practical implications: The findings suggest that FIEs workers’ union allegiances are more likely to reflect a pro-union orientation, with SOE workers more likely to see their union allegiances in narrowly instrumental terms. In FIEs, with a profit-oriented and privately managed enterprise, union allegiances may be closer to those of Western market economies, whilst in SOEs, the “dual role” model persists, with unions a service provider rather than an independent employee representative. Originality/value: The findings in this paper provide an initial test of the potential differences in the antecedents of union commitment and participation across FIEs and SOEs. Future research is needed to build on these findings, in particular, adopting multi-enterprise study designs across different enterprise types.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-59
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Chinese Human Resource Management
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Chinese unions
    • Industrial relations
    • Union commitment
    • Union participation


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