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One store, two employment systems: core, periphery and flexibility in China's retail sector

Gamble, Jos and Huang, Qihai (2009) One store, two employment systems: core, periphery and flexibility in China's retail sector. British journal of industrial relations, 47 (1). pp. 1-26. ISSN 1467-8543

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Abstract

Research on 'flexible' or 'contingent work', derived primarily from manufacturing and production contexts in Western settings, has often been theorized in terms of a core-periphery model. Based upon ethnographic research on vendor representatives and regular store employees conducted at a multinational retail firm in China, we indicate that this model is insufficient to capture the complexity of employment arrangements in this context. This article delineates the coexistence of two employment systems and a quadrilateral relationship in which workers' interests sometimes overlap but often compete. Our research also indicates that institutional arrangements in China significantly affect the strategies that are open to firms and the consequent structure of employment relations.

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