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This book investigates the transfer of parent country organizational practices by the retailers to their Chinese subsidiaries, providing insights into employment relations in multinational retail firms and changing labour-management systems in China, as well as their impact on consumer culture.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

1. Introduction

Abstract
Rising prosperity and a rapidly commercializing economy have transformed post Mao China into the world’s largest and most rapidly growing emerging market. Until 1992, foreign firms were largely excluded from China’s domestic retail market. Since then, this sector has gradually opened to foreign involvement, a process boosted by commitments made as part of China’s accession agreement to the World Trade Organization, which it joined in 2001. China now constitutes an increasingly significant market for overseas retailers, offering the lure of substantial growth potential compared with low growth or stagnation in developed markets. Attracted by its growing economy and rising consumer spending, multinational retailers have rapidly built up their presence.
Jos Gamble

2. China’s Retail Sector in Context

Abstract
Before presenting findings from the research, this chapter sketches the background and context to the contemporary retail sector and employment relations in China. It begins with an overview of the economic system and retailing in the Maoist period. Attention then turns to the re-emergence of markets in the post Mao era, consumption and consumers in contemporary China and the evolving state policy toward foreign involvement in the retail sector. The chapter concludes with an outline of trends in the retail market since China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Jos Gamble

3. Transferring Human Resource Practices from the United Kingdom to China

Abstract
Substantial effort has been devoted to exploring the extent to which human resource management (HRM) practices can be transferred from one national context to another. Particular attention has been paid to the manufacturing sector, to countries with ‘strong’ HRM traditions and to transfers between economically developed countries. This chapter addresses the transfer of a retail sector firm’s human resource practices from the United Kingdom to China. Despite the global orientation of many UK firms, few studies explore the extent to which they have transferred their human resource management approach overseas. By contrast, numerous studies explore the transfer of HRM practices from countries such as Japan where these are seen to be a source of competitive advantage (e.g. Gill and Wong, 1998; Purcell et al., 1999). When research has focused on UK firms, the exploration tends to remain within the realm of economically developed countries (e.g. Edwards et al., 1996; Edwards et al., 1999; Muller, 1998; Schmitt and Sadowski, 2003).
Jos Gamble

4. Shopfloor Perceptions of Employment Practices at UK-Store in China

Abstract
The management of host country employees is often portrayed as a particularly fraught dimension for multinational firms. The difficulties inherent can manifest and stymie a UK firm seeking to transfer its management systems across the English Channel to France (Boussebaa and Morgan, 2008). The problems involved are considered exponentially greater when institutional differences and ‘cultural distance’ between the host country and a multinational firm’s parent country are far larger, as is assumed to be the case for Western firms operating in mainland China. Based upon detailed case study research conducted at UK-Store and a comparable Chinese state owned firm, this chapter explores further the veracity of such assumptions.
Jos Gamble

5. Transferring Organizational Practices: A Diachronic Perspective from China

Abstract
Despite extensive research on the transfer of organizational practices by multinational firms, the role that time plays in this process has been neglected. A prominent theoretical assumption is that as overseas subsidiaries become more embedded in the local environment, they increasingly take on the practices that prevail locally (Farley et al., 2004; Rosenzweig and Nohria, 1994). However, longitudinal studies that would allow an assessment of the veracity of this assumption or its implications have been sparse; most studies provide one-off, synchronic ‘snapshots’ of organizations. This chapter sets out to answer two key questions. Firstly, what affect does the passage of time have on transferred organizational practices? Secondly, and more specifically, does isomorphism of multinationals’ overseas subsidiaries with host country organizational practices increase over time?
Jos Gamble, Qihai Huang

6. Transferring Organizational Practices and the Dynamics of Hybridization: Japanese Retail Multinationals in China

Abstract
This chapter draws upon the detailed case study research conducted at Japanese multinational retail firms in both their home country and their subsidiaries in China. These findings are used to interrogate and assess the utility of a range of prominent theoretical perspectives that have been used to account for the dynamics involved in the transfer of organizational practices. Perspectives based upon the nation or national culture as the key unit of analysis, industry sector, an international division of labour perspective and agency accounts such as the strategic international human resource management and micropolitical approaches are shown to be ill-equipped, individually, to account fully for the complex patterns of transfer, local adoption and adaptation — hybridization — that are involved. The influential neo-institutionalist perspective developed by Kostova (1999) is also shown to include assumptions that are problematic particularly, but perhaps not solely, with respect to transitional economies in which deinstitutionalization is a significant feature. Additionally, this chapter identifies important dimendimensions in the process of hybridization that have been neglected or ignored in existing models. These include the degree to which firm level perceptions of what constitutes competitive advantage are the key motive encouraging transfer of practices, the extent to which these perceptions are context specific and mediated by diverse factors, as well as the crucial role played by local labour markets.
Jos Gamble

7. Multinational Retailers in China: Proliferating ‘McJobs’ or Developing Skills?

Abstract
Much has been written on the nature of skills and the extent to which there is either increased skills development or a deskilling of workers in modern workplaces. During the 1970s and 1980s, most attention focused on the manufacturing sector. In the 1990s, the service sector came under increasing scrutiny, with call centres becoming a particular focus for study. Largely absent in this debate, though, has been any exploration of the issues involved in non-Western contexts. Additionally, the economically and socially significant retail sector has been rather neglected. This chapter broadens the debate and explores these issues in the novel context of the UK and Japanese retailers’ operations in China.
Jos Gamble

8. One Store, Two Employment Systems: Core, Periphery and Flexibility in China’s Retail Sector

Abstract
In the latter part of the twentieth century, economic and social changes put organizations under pressure to increase flexibility in their employment system (Kalleberg, 2003). Consequently, since the early 1980s, contingent work arrangements have become more widespread (Hakim, 1990; Smith, 1994; Voudouris, 2004; Walsh, 2007). An extensive literature on this subject in Western contexts focuses on what is referred to as ‘flexible’ or ‘contingent work’ (e.g. Atkinson, 1984; Cappelli and Neumark, 2004; Geary, 1992; Kalleberg, 2001), with notions of ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ labour as a central feature of discussion. However, although there are exceptions (e.g. Coyle-Shapiro and Kessler, 2002; Smith, 1994; Walsh, 1990; Walsh and Deery, 1999, 2006), most analyses on flexibility derive from manufacturing and production settings, with few focused on the retail sector (although see Baret et al., 2000; Nätti, 1990; Wong, 2001). This imbalance may distort our understanding of flexibility. When workers produce services or work on people, we might anticipate finding different organizational forms of flexibility, as well as different outcomes to those found in production settings (Smith, 1997).
Jos Gamble, Qihai Huang

9. The Rhetoric of the Consumer and Customer Control in China

Abstract
Not only in business, but also in contexts as diverse as politics, health care and education the rhetoric of the sovereign consumer has become pervasive in Western societies (Keat et al., 1994). The dissemination of this notion received impetus and vitality with the rise to dominance of neo-liberal economics in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1980s and is closely entwined with characterizations of the consumer as a rational, maximizing individual. Ensuing the spread of this notion, researchers interested in customer orientated workplaces have adumbrated the extent to which the rhetoric of the consumer is utilized by management, both to reinforce and ‘mystify’ their control over workers. Despite this theoretical inclination, few studies have explored these practices in actual workplaces. This chapter aims to make such a contribution. It explores the extent to which the rhetoric of the sovereign consumer and the use of the customer as a device of managerial control have been transferred to the subsidiaries of multinational retailers in China. Study in China also enables exploration of how management by customers might operate differently in novel institutional and cultural contexts.
Jos Gamble

10. Concluding Comments

Abstract
This chapter provides an overview of the main findings from this study. It examines the United Kingdom and Japanese multinationals transfer of parent country organizational practices to China, local employees’ reception of these practices, and the form of customer service in these subsidiaries. Where appropriate, implications for theory and links to broader concerns and issues are highlighted. The final section suggests some directions for a future research agenda.
Jos Gamble

Backmatter

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