The unrest and relative empowerment of the working class in contemporary China

Burak Gürel, Mina Kozluca



This paper puts forward three arguments regarding the nature and consequences of China’s rising labor unrest. Firstly, China’s rapid economic growth in the reform era was made possible by a large reserve army of labor, consisting mainly of semi-proletarianized migrant workers from the countryside. Secondly, the deepening proletarianization of and discrimination against migrant workers in recent years has led to a significant increase in labor movements. Finally, rising labor unrest has resulted in significant wage increases, the relative formalization of labor, and a significant decline in profitability.


China, migrant workers, labor unrest, semi-proletarianization, informal sector

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