From production to reproduction: Pension strikes and changing characteristics of workers’ collective action in China

Elaine Sio ieng Hui, Chris King chi Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Workers in the global South are becoming increasingly sensitive to their pension rights. In recent years, rural migrant workers in China have staged a series of protests to fight for pension protection. Drawing from two in-depth case studies conducted in the Pearl River Delta, we explain why workers staged pension strikes, what these protests looked like, how the employers and the government responded, and how these protests differed from previous strikes. Building upon insights from the sociology of collective action and labour process theory, we formulate a new framework for examining labour protests. In addition to seeing workers’ collective action as defensive or offensive, this framework helps us interpret these actions in relation to the spheres of production and reproduction. It classifies pension strikes in China as defensive actions located in the sphere of reproduction, which are distinct from previous strikes that were either defensive or offensive actions situated in the sphere of production. This synthesised framework assists us in theorising that workers’ protest activities, especially in the global South, are not restricted to the traditional production sphere but can also be found in the reproduction sphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Industrial relations

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