Pun Ngai is Professor in Sociology at University of Hong Kong. She was honored as winner of C. Wright Mills Award for her book Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace (2005). Her book, Dying for iPhone: Foxconn and the Lives of Chinese Workers (co-authored with Jenny Chan and Mark Selden) has been translated into six languages. She is the sole author of Migrant Labor in China: Post Socialist Transformation (2016). She has published widely in leading journals such as Sociological Review, Critical Sociology, Information, Community and Society, Current Sociology, Global Labor Journal, Work, Employment and Society, Organization, China Journal, China Quarterly, etc.

Conceptualising Garment Women Workers’ Power in Global Production Networks in China

Despite the importance today of global production networks (GPNs) in linking the international division of labour between the Global North and the Global South, the garment women workers in such networks receive relatively little attention from those interested in the sociology of work. This study applies Glucksmann’s concept of “socio-economic formations of labour” to understand GPNs as an instituted economic process that helps perpetuate an uneven global capitalism, and reveals a specific configuration of macro- and micro-scale labour formations in China’s garment sector. We argue that labour agency is a productive factor negotiating GPNs while under the constraints of capital and management. Taking a bottom-up perspective, socio-economic factors are found to give China’s garment workers significant power in various forms which—to a certain extent—shapes the multi-layered structure of garment global production networks. Workers’ power is conceptualized by sociological tools in order to substantiate the concept of abstract labour. It defines five types of workers’ power based on age, education, gender, skill, work experience, locality and migration experience and enrich our understanding of the various forms of workers’ power involved in working within a GPN.