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Employment Relations in the Asia Pacific
Human Resources » Employee Relations

Chrm Message From: rahul mishra Total Posts: 32 Join Date: 07/06/2007
Rank: Executive Post Date: 21/07/2008 11:18:34 Points: 160 Location: United States

Dear professionals,

This important new book analyses work and employment relations in seven countries: Australia; Indonesia; Japan; New Zealand; the People's Republic of China (PRC); South Korea; and Taiwan.

Professor Greg Bamber of Australia's Griffith University points out that by the year 2020 eight of the 12 largest economies in the world will be from the Asia Pacific region. This book reviews recent developments in that region: first, in three advanced market economies - Australia, New Zealand and Japan; second, in two of the dynamic 'tigers' - the newly industrialising economies South Korea and Taiwan; and third, from the next group of Asian industrialisers - Indonesia and the People's Republic of China.

He argues "This third group is in danger of being caught in a 'sandwich trap' of cheap labour competition from below and exclusion from higher value-added markets above. In earlier years, the 'tigers' faced the same trap."

"Some consumers in Britain and other industrialised countries may express concern that shoes and clothes are made by children or other forms of 'sweated labour' in say Indonesia or China. Yet these consumers know very little about working conditions in these countries."

The book also reviews development of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which, Bamber observes, "may in the future be the scene of similar tensions about globalisation as seen at the recent 2001 Summit of the G8 countries' leaders in Genoa."

Australia and New Zealand Since 1993, legislation in Australia has encouraged employers and workers to negotiate individual or collective industrial agreements at the workplace. There is not much evidence that many employing organisations have adopted sophisticated Human Resource Management (HRM) policies. Nonetheless, there has been a significant and continuing decline in unionisation.

A significant factor in New Zealand's programme of employment relations reform was its Employment Contracts Act 1991, which abolished the arbitration system, and de-emphasised collective bargaining. The size and role of unions were severely curtailed so that most employers were no longer confronted by much countervailing power from unions. Something of a reversal has taken place with the return of a Labour-Alliance government in 1999 that has formulated legislation to encourage 'good faith' collective bargaining involving legally recognised unions.

Japan Japanese employment relations and personnel practices have long been of interest to observers from other countries, particularly during the 1980s when they helped to explain the superior competitive performance of Japanese products on world markets. Since the early 1990s, however, the Japanese economy has been sluggish and some stereotyped-Japanese phenomena like lifetime employment have come under pressure.

This is against the background of the adoption by Japanese firms of cost-cutting measures like downsizing and re-engineering that are given the credit for resuscitating competitiveness in American industry in the 1990s. In spite of such pressure, most core employees in blue-chip Japanese companies still enjoy a form of lifetime employment. Unlike many of their counterparts in western countries, such companies have been reluctant to lose their investment in human capital and have continued to invest in training and development. There have been remarkably few compulsory redundancies in blue-chip Japanese companies.

Japanese approaches to kaizen (continuous improvement) and employee involvement are especially important. The emphasis of kaizen on employee-driven problem solving is a strong counterpoint to the top-down notion of 're-engineering'. Most western managers seem to believe that employment security restrains managerial flexibility. However, Japanese managers tend to see employment security as essential to the flexibility associated with promoting kaizen and employee involvement.

South Korea and Taiwan Achieving high levels of employment early along their paths to industrialisation led newly industrialised economies (NIEs) to take an interest in HRM as a means of obtaining workforce commitment to increasing productivity. In Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, moves towards democratisation since the late 1980s and a growing dependence on foreign labour alerted public policymakers and corporate managers to the importance of HRM policies and practices.

The state has played an important role in South Korea, but so too have the large family conglomerates, the chaebol. Spurred by the government, the chaebol initiated the industrialisation of South Korea and have played a dominant role in the country's economic development ever since. There remains a struggle between the state, the chaebol and the unions over the control of employment relations. In 1996 the Kim Young-Sam government amended the Trade Union Act and strengthened employers' workplace prerogatives. This precipitated much worker and union discontent including many strikes.

Indonesia and the People's Republic of China In terms of their large size and stage of economic development, Indonesia and the PRC are awakening giants. Both countries have had strong authoritarian governments and relatively low-cost labour. But in recent years, Indonesia has experienced more political instability and it suffered much more from the Asian financial crisis.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. After the Asian financial crisis it asked the International Labour Organisation to help it to reform its labour market policies and employment relations laws. In an effort to reduce unemployment and increase foreign remittances, Indonesia's Ministry of Manpower is pursuing a strategy of placing its labour force in the global market. Compulsory three-day courses for would-be overseas workers aim to help them understand their rights and avoid exploitation, and a private sector insurance scheme provides some further protection. There remains the problem of illegal and unscrupulous recruitment agents at home and advocacy groups like the Women's Solidarity for Human Rights have pressed for tighter regulations.

In the PRC, central planning originally determined the national labour market policies, but recently these policies have been driven increasingly by product-market considerations too. Employment relations reform has not been straightforward. There appears to be considerable latent labour unrest in China. About half of all reported labour disputes arise from workers being transferred from lifetime to contract employment; moreover, rural migration has created high urban unemployment. Thus, the PRC provides some of the cheapest labour in the world to the factories being developed by expatriate Chinese entrepreneurs in the Special Economic Zones. Structural reforms have been accompanied by large-scale redundancies - estimates range above 20 million people - and workers still employed are often not paid.

Conclusions Although government intervention is no longer public policy in the main English-speaking countries and union memberships have been in decline -- in the USA, Australia and the UK, for example - this has not been the case in some Asia-Pacific countries -- notably Taiwan and South Korea. Further, some Asian governments are still interventionist in their labour markets, playing an important role in determining the legal framework of employment relations as well as in defining the role of unions. But there are significant differences between countries. For example, the survival and militancy of oppositional union leaders in South Korea has not been matched in Malaysia, and the gains of Taiwan's trade unionists have no parallel in Singapore. And, while the enterprise union structure in Korea is a cause of tension in that country's employment relations, it has been a contributor to industrial harmony in Japan. Those with operations in these countries would be well advised to keep an eye on su ch developments .

Edited by Greg Bamber

Warm Regards

Rahul Mishra

Chrm Message From: hema Total Posts: 21 Join Date: 07/06/2007  
Rank: Executive Post Date: 21/07/2008 11:19:40 Points: 105 Location: United States

Dear Rahul ,

Can u help me in my project on "making employers organisations responsive to workers requirement" can you send some link or material for the same basically i need to write what are the responsibilities and duties of the employeers for workers etc.if at all you have any material or some good link that would be a great help though i tried google but i was not able to find what i want exactly.

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