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The Effects of Employee Involvement and Participation on Subjective Wellbeing: Evidence from Urban China


Based on a unique dataset from the Chinese General Social Survey, this paper provides empirical evidence on the relationship between employee involvement and participation (EIP) and subjective wellbeing in transitional China. The econometric analysis shows that, while controlling for personal characteristics, some EIP elements are significantly associated with employees’ self-perceived satisfaction with work, life, protection of rights and benefits, and the state sector reform. These EIP elements include: participative and consultative management; freedom of expression and effective discussion between employees and their supervisors; and better understanding of, and participation in, workplace reforms. However, some employees who are willing to participate in higher-level decision making might have been unable to find adequate institutional channels to materialise their ambitions. Therefore, potential exists to further develop EIP as a more effective means to improve urban Chinese employees’ wellbeing and their workplace conditions.

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  1. 1.

    Results are shown in Appendix 1.

  2. 2.

    Similar potential issues exist in other studies which used large-scale social surveys, such as the General Social Survey of the United State (see e.g. Blanchflower and Oswald 2004) and other datasets collected in China (see e.g. Smyth et al. 2011 for the debate on using personality variables). Nonetheless, the benefits of analysing the CGSS data outweigh the potential limitations.

  3. 3.

    Baseline models are available in Appendix 2.

  4. 4.

    The results of 18 robustness checks for other nine different specifications are not presented here due to space constraint; but they are available from the author.


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The author thanks constructive comments and suggestions from three referees, and Keith Townsend, Raymond Markey and other participants in the 2012 Symposium on Re-assessing Employee Involvement and Participation at Griffith University, where an earlier version of this paper was presented. Any remaining errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Correspondence to Zhiming Cheng.


Appendix 1

See Table 8.

Table 8 Measures of association of variables

Appendix 2

See Table 9.

Table 9 OLS coefficients of satisfaction with job and life among urban employees (baseline models)

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Cheng, Z. The Effects of Employee Involvement and Participation on Subjective Wellbeing: Evidence from Urban China. Soc Indic Res 118, 457–483 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0430-8

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  • China
  • Employee involvement and participation
  • Subjective wellbeing
  • Satisfaction
  • State sector reform