JILPT Research Report No.202
“New Forms of Employment” and Worker Protection under the Sharing Economy in China:
Problems in Regulation and Practice

March 29, 2019

Summary

Research Objective

This study attempts to outline the reality of “new forms of employment” and worker protection under the sharing economy in China and clarifies the current situation and problems in terms of the following points:

  1. Legislative background of China‘s Labor Law and Labor Contract Law
  2. The nature of China‘s labor law and its relationship with civil law
  3. Worker protection under the sharing economy
  4. Criteria for identifying the employment relationship as a premise of worker protection

Research Method

Fieldwork survey, literature survey, and research group meetings

Key Findings

  • Labor legislation in China is the product of policy-making in a top down manner rather than originating from the need to protect employees.
  • There is no legal definition of the terms “employee” and “employment relationship” in the existing labor laws.
  • The main purpose of labor laws and regulations in China is to ensure economic development and social stability.
  • In reference to worker protection under the sharing economy in China, as a starting point of discussions, heated debates about whether the existence of an employment relationship should be recognized or not have been constantly repeated.
  • Once the existence of an employment relationship is recognized, generous protection of labor laws and regulations would be provided, to reduce the burden on companies, the hurdle for employment relationship certification is high.
  • Discussions about the subdivision of the concept of employee, or to introduce “employee-like persons” as a third category of workers between employees and independent contractors have been held to bring more workers under the protection of labor laws.

Policy Implications

  • We need to always bear in mind that the starting point and purpose of labor laws and regulations in China are different from those in Japan.
  • If the level of worker protection were set too high, it spontaneously leads to a tendency to narrow down the scope of application.
  • The concept of the sharing economy has brought about various new forms of employment, and there exists a discussion about excluding persons, who originally own underused resources and are willing to “share” them, from the scope of protection by the labor laws.

Policy Contribution

This study examines characteristics of legal responses to new forms of employment in China, and analyzes the distinct nature and the legislative background of China’s labor regulations. This will serve as a reference for policy making in response to new forms of employment.

Main Text (available only in Japanese)

  • JILPT Research Report No.202, full text (PDF: 1.4MB)
    • Cover – Preface – Authors – Contents
    • Chapter 1: Objective of the Study and Outline of the Report
    • Chapter 2: Atypical Employment in China: Emerging Trends and Challenges in Labor Legislation
    • Chapter 3: Evolution, Challenges of Employment Relationship and its Legislative Responses under the Sharing Economy in China
    • Chapter 4: Recognition of the Existence of an Employment Relationship under the Sharing Economy
    • Chapter 5: The Sharing Economy and Worker Protection in China from the Viewpoint of Comparative Law
    • Appendix: Japanese translation of related articles on the “Interim Measures on the Administration of Operation and Service of Online Car-hailing”

    Research Categories

    Project research: Research on the System for Determining Working Conditions with a Focus on Labor Relations

    Sub-themes: Research on Labor Law Policy in Response to Changes in the Employment Focused Society

    Research Period

    Fiscal year 2018.

    Authors

    ZHONG Qi
    Vice Senior Researcher of the JILPT
    TU Wei
    Researcher of Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security
    ZHANG Yun
    Researcher of Chinese Academy of Labour and Social Security
    YU Hui
    Lecturer, Institute of Social Law, Civil, Commercial and Economic Law School, China University of Political Science and Law
    ISHIKAWA Mari
    JILPT Assistant Fellow (at the time of writing)

    * Please note that overall editing and coordination of this report and the Japanese translation of Chapter 2‒4 was done by Zhong.

    Related Research Results

    • JILPT Research Report No.190, Research on Emerging Atypical Work Organizations in Europe (2017)
    • Discussion Paper 18-04: The Status of Workers in the Sharing Economy and Problems in Labor Law in China (2018)

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