Building from below: subsidiary management moderation of employment practices in MNCs in China

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The international HRM literature has a long tradition of examining the impact of institutional differences on the employment practices adopted by MNCs. The question of how actors make sense of institutional differences, however, has received less research attention. This paper examines the enactment of employment practices as institutional differences are translated, contextualized and mobilized by managers at subsidiaries of MNCs. Based on intensive case studies at two Japanese–Chinese joint-venture manufacturing plants, the paper first shows that distinctive employment practices were adopted to manage the boundaries between employee groups. These distinctions are then explained by the institutional difference between the home country (Japan) and the host country (China) as well as the way that institutional differences were represented by the managers in the process of designing, developing and executing employment practices. The paper therefore argues that country differences are not only assumed spaces, but are also a reservoir of management resources that are moderated, in the case of employment practices, by actors’ strategic choices and political actions before they are enacted in the subsidiary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2275-2303
Number of pages29
JournalThe International Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number19
Early online date19 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • boundaries of employee groups
  • social agency

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