Overcoming Institutional Immobility? Evaluating Employment Outcomes of Repatriated Chinese Migrants from Overseas Civil Engineering Projects

Yu Zheng, Meng Xing, Ling, Eleanor Zhang, Chris Smith

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As a critical transition in transnational mobility, repatriation has significant implications for migrants as well as for the organizations and the societies they return to. Drawing upon labour process theory, this study examines differences in post-repatriation employment outcomes by revealing the lived experiences of the migrant workers in their attempts to overcome institutional constraints in search of better economic opportunities. The empirical research was conducted among Chinese migrants who returned to China from infrastructure construction projects − a sector characterised by fragmented employment. Analysis of documents and interviews led us to question whether and how repatriated migrant workers made use of the temporary employment stability offered by overseas assignments to avoid returning to fragmented work and precarious employment conditions in China. Our study highlights that working overseas enabled mobility when migrant workers made effective use of the information and resources embedded in the employing organisation. Such information and resources are often obscured by fragmented employment relationships that contribute to the immobility perpetrated by China’s regulatory and normative institutions. We conclude by arguing that understanding how repatriated migrant workers navigate institutional barriers is crucial for explaining differences in their employment outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Publication statusSubmitted - 2024

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