The Academy of Finland provided funding for two research projects focusing on Labour Law in China:
“ILO Core Labour Standards Implementation in China: Legal Architecture and Cultural Logic” and “Employee Participation and Collective Bargaining in the Era of Globalisation – Nordic and Chinese Perspectives”
Both projects were hosted by the University of Helsinki, Law Faculty and led by Professor Ulla Liukkunen.
Each of them had its particularity. “ILO Core Labour Standards Implementation in China: Legal Architecture and Cultural Logic”, focused on the legal architecture surrounding the implementation of international standards in China. In order to reach a comprehensive understanding of this legal architecture and cultural logic an inter-disciplinary perspective would be required.
The second project, “Employee participation and collective bargaining in the era of globalization – Nordic and Chinese Perspectives”, was conducted in collaboration with The Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
Both projects addressed labour law and the basic question of comparing culturally different legal systems. Hence, the co-operation enabled useful synergies between the projects and strengthens the international research collaboration as well as the implementation of both projects.
Based on the above-mention research, Professor Ulla Liukkunen and Dr Chen Yifeng have started a sub-project on “Transnational Labour Governance and Posted Workers” in the spring of 2016. The economic globalization has made transnational movement of workers a growing phenomenon. Such a “delocalization” or “transnationality” of posted workers has brought much regulatory challenges for protection and enforcement of labour rights. The project offers a comparative study of the regulatory frameworks between China and EU on posted workers, and to certain extent, migrant workers. Through conceptualizing “transnationality”, the project aims to develop a general approach for possible transnational recognition and enforcement of labour rights.
ILO Core Labour Standards Implementation in China: Legal Architecture and Cultural Logic
“Employee Participation and Collective Bargaining in the Era of Globalization – Nordic and Chinese Perspectives” examined workplace governance through collective bargaining and employee participation from a comparative perspective. The project explored the legal framework and experience in collective bargaining and employee participation in Finland and the other Nordic countries and China and assessed legal adaptation to changes caused by globalization. The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg was an important partner in this project. The project jointly with the Max Planck Institute co-organized an international research seminar which offered comparative insights into collective labour law so that European and international levels of development were also covered.
Well-established collective bargaining and employee participation are characteristics of the Nordic labour market model. Finland and other Nordic countries have high union density and established industrial relations institutions. In China, labour law and industrial relations regimes are undergoing profound changes, including the rapid spread of collective bargaining. However, growth of labour conflicts within and outside the formal labour relations system in China indicates that the institutionalization of industrial relations may not be producing the desired effects. The Finnish and Nordic collective bargaining and employee participation system could provide useful references for China’s future legal development in this field.
The research project acknowledged the wide-ranging effects of globalization of the world economy on labour markets both in the Nordic countries and China, and explored how national legal frameworks for collective bargaining and employee participation correspond to these changes. For example, business restructuring, outsourcing and moving production from one region or country to another pose challenges to labour law both in the Nordic countries and China. The project offered a platform for comparative discussion and exchange of views and ideas between researchers on how best to develop national models of collective bargaining and employee participation to avoid conflicts related to these changes. Employee participation was also examined in the context of corporate governance.
The project was a joint effort between Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Institute of Law and the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law. The project received funding from the Academy of Finland and CASS.
Employee Participation and Collective Bargaining in the Era of Globalisation – Nordic and Chinese Perspectives
“ILO Core Labour Standards Implementation in China: Legal Architecture and Cultural Logic” examined implementation of the ILO core conventions in China. The ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1988) prohibits child labour, discrimination and forced labour as well as setting freedom of association and collective bargaining as fundamental rights at work. China, an original member of the ILO since 1919, has ratified four out of eight ILO core conventions enshrining fundamental principles and rights at work.
While domestic reforms in China have facilitated ratification of five ILO conventions since 2002, it has remained an open question to what extent the ILO conventions have continued to influence development of labour law in China and to what extent international labour standards are implemented in Chinese law and practice, especially considering China’s multi-layered administrative structure and incentives for local governments to attract foreign investment.
The research project aimed to improve understanding of the structural forces that influence implementation of the ILO core conventions in China. The project analysed local cultural logics that inform implementation of core labour standards and maps the roles of different actors in this process. Existing and emerging practices that can play a positive role in enforcement of law were also identified. The objective of the project was to sketch a blueprint for Chinese legal architecture capable of implementing ILO core labour standards effectively. In addition to its substantive research outcomes, the project contributed to developing comparative law methodology and theory in terms of examining culturally different legal systems. The project also produced a model for assessment of how international legal standards are implemented at the national level.
The project combined expertise from international law, labour law, comparative law, social anthropology and Chinese law and had a strong international profile with a network of global connections and several partners in China, Europe and the US. The two major publications of the project, “China and ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work” (2014) and “Fundamental Labour Rights in China – Legal Implementation and Cultural Logic” (2016) were the first international research outcomes that systematically analyse and assess fundamental labour rights implementation in China.
The project was funded by the Academy of Finland.
Roger Blanpain (general ed.), Ulla Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen (volume eds.), China and ILO fundamental principles and rights at work, 86 Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations, Kluwer, January 2014.
Ulla Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen (eds.), Fundamental Labour Rights in China – Legal Implementation and Cultural Logic, Springer, 2016.
Jürgen Basedow, Chen Su, Matteo Fornasier and Ulla Liukkunen (eds.), Employee Participation and Collective Bargaining in Europe and China, Mohr Siebeck, 2016.