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The making of construction workers : subjectivity, collectivity and the multi-layered subcontracting system in the Hong Kong construction industry

Authors Wong, Rachel Hiu Kam
Issue Date 2005
Summary Labour studies in Hong Kong generally overlook the subjectivity of workers and are pre-occupied with the assumption of universal subjects. In order to fill this gap, this thesis adopts a constitutive approach to understand dynamic making processes of construction worker identity under the multi-layered subcontracting system in the Hong Kong construction industry. I first introduce the multi-layered subcontracting system is featured with its ambiguous employment relation. There is no direct connection between the over-arching clients and the frontline production workers. Management orders are transmitted through the intermediary of subcontractors or gangers. A gang is a basic work unit in the industry. Gangers head their work-groups and have the full authority to supervise their workers. Through conducting in-depth interviews, I disclose that the worker-identity is crafted by three intertwining forces: capitalist forces, politics of ethnic difference (Cantonese vs. non-Cantonese; Chinese vs. non-Chinese; Hongkongers vs. Mainlanders) and gender politics (focusing at the formation of masculinity). Worker-subjects are not unaware to the effects of power and play an active role of making their worker-identity which, in turn reproducing the power-laden social relations. I also reveal worker-subjects make use of collective resources as their everyday life tactics to maximize their material gains and defy, transgress or resist to the matrices of power exerting on them. The gang-based organization of this system favours the proliferation of various collectivities: buddy relationship, ethnic intra-group solidarity and brotherhood community that empower a vulnerable individual worker to be a collective worker which enables him to set off problems of unstable job nature and ambiguous employment relation stemming from this labour process.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2005
Language English
Format Thesis
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