Regulating the Fissured Workplace: The Notion of the ‘Employer’ in Chinese Labour Law

Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations, Vol 95, pp. 183-203

22 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2017 Last revised: 5 Mar 2018

Date Written: January 29, 2017


The term 'fissured workplace' has been coined by David Weil to describe fundamental changes in the organisation of work arising from firms' competitive strategies in the 21st century. As Weil put it, fissurisation refers to 'both a form of employment (for example, temporary agency employment; independent contracting) and a relationship between different business enterprises (subcontracting, franchising)'. In a fissured workplace that may have multiple legal entities intertwined in a range of complex contractual relationships, the notion of the 'employer' and thus the question of who should bear the legal responsibilities of an employer become extremely problematic.

This paper examines the evolving phenonmenon of the fissured workplace in China and the regulatory dynamics of Chinese labour law in addressing the challenges of fissurisation over the past three decades. In the current phase of China's economic downturn, accelerating trends of fissurisation have brought to the forefront some major challenges for policymakers arising from the broader social consequences of fissured workplaces. The paper focuses on the notion of the 'employer' in Chinese labour law, particularly how policymakers in recent years have sought to regulate the use of labour dispatch as a prevalent manifestation of fissurisation in China.

Keywords: fissured work, fissurisation, Chinese labour law, dispatch labour, employment relationship

JEL Classification: K31, J41, J50, J80, N35

Suggested Citation

Zou, Mimi, Regulating the Fissured Workplace: The Notion of the ‘Employer’ in Chinese Labour Law (January 29, 2017). Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations, Vol 95, pp. 183-203. Available at SSRN:

Mimi Zou (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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