Working for two bosses: Student interns as constrained labour in China

Chris Smith, Jenny Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Based on interviews with students and teachers at one electronics company, we analyse the use of student interns to do regular manufacturing work in China. We argue that student workers need to be seen as a distinct category of constrained labour; part of a growing insecure workforce in China. We find that students enrolled in vocational schools are moved into internships, without their consent, to suit the needs of employers. This results in a misalignment between interns and their area of study that invalidates the basic principle of vocational education, which is to combine theory and practice within a sector or occupationally-focused education programme. Teachers in vocational schools follow their students into the factory and become ‘teacher-supervisors’, receiving a second salary for co-managing the utilization of student interns’ labour power. Thus, within such an unfree labour regime, student workers are subject to dual control in the workplace from managerial and teacher-supervisors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-326
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Relations
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • China
  • constrained labour
  • dual capitalist labour control
  • internship
  • local states
  • student workers
  • teacher-supervisors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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