China’s Older Workers: Between Law and Policy, Between Laid-Off and Unemployed



Substantial layoffs in China’s state and urban collective sectors began in the early 1990s.1 Important government regulations and edicts on xiagang followed in the late 1990s after the fifteenth Party Congress, which announced a new intensification of the state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform process, including top leadership support for massive layoffs and privatization of small and medium SOEs. The policy of allowing SOEs to lay off large numbers of workers by designating these workers “xiagang” is a temporary policy that targets a certain class of workers for a limited period of time.2 While in English the term “laid-off” has a mostly economic connotation (something done by a company to a worker or group of workers), the term xiagang in Chinese is also a political term and a classification that is closely linked to government and Party policy toward SOE restructuring. This term is also linked to the phasing out of the previous employment system, which was characterized by lifetime employment, cradle-to-grave benefits, and very limited labor mobility.


Labor Relation Comparative International Development Labor Contract Permanent Worker Labor Dispute 
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© Thomas B. Gold, William J. Hurst, Jaeyoun Won, and Li Qiang 2009

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