SOAS University of London

Chinese firms and employment dynamics in Africa: research findings

21 June 2019

This research project Industrial Development, Construction and Employment in Africa (IDCEA): A Comparative Analysis set out to explore comparative evidence on working conditions in emerging construction and manufacturing sectors in Africa. The initial aim was to respond to the lack of evidence on job creation and working conditions in Chinese firms in these sectors in Africa. The research concentrates on two sectors where the employment contributions of foreign, including Chinese, firms are particularly important: manufacturing and construction (for the latter, specifically in road infrastructure). An additional aim of the study was to analyse the characteristics of an emerging industrial workforce in countries with different economic growth patterns. Ethiopia and Angola provide two useful contrasting contexts for these questions. An international research team completed extensive qualitative scoping research, desk reviews and two large-scale surveys of workers in Ethiopia (837 workers) and Angola (682) in March-August 2017 and September 2016-March 2017 respectively. These workers were distributed in 37 firms in Angola and 40 companies in Ethiopia, roughly half of them being of Chinese origin. After four years of mixed-method research the project is coming to an end and we have some initial findings to share. Qualitative data collection continued until July 2018, firm management surveys were completed in 2018, and subsequently additional longitudinal data were collected through phone surveys in late 2018 and early 2019. The approach was to compare like with like as much as possible, selecting all the leading Chinese, other foreign, and domestic firms within specific and highly relevant sub-sectors. In other words, we compared workers in leading Chinese firms with the best of the rest, not with the average.

On the question of job creation and the proportion of national (Ethiopian and Angolan) workers in the labour force we find that workforce localization rates are substantially higher than usually assumed in media perceptions. In Ethiopia these rates were 90% of all workers (and 100% for low-skilled workers) and in Angola, where rates are usually much lower due to skill shortages, estimated rates were 74%. In Angola we found that localization had grown significantly in the previous 10 years as Chinese firms settled in that market context. Given that Chinese contractors have dominated the road construction market in Ethiopia and Angola, they have been the main contributors to job creation in absolute terms, especially in recent years.

We also compared take-home wages for workers by skill-group (low-skilled and semi-skilled) and by sector across different firms by origin. A combination of descriptive and statistical regression analysis reveals that there is significant variation in wages and that the main determinants are, for Ethiopia: skill level of workers; working in construction (higher wages); job tenure; education; work experience; socio-economic status and location, like being located in an industrial park, where wages are slightly lower. In Angola the main determinants of wages are: skill level of workers; job tenure; work experience; socio-economic status; specific location effects. Once we take all these factors into account the origin of a firm does not impact on wages on average. In other words, wages in sampled Chinese firms were broadly similar to other top firms in the same sectors, once other worker and company characteristics are taken into account. An interesting finding is that in Angola many Chinese firms adopted a migrant dormitory labour regime by employing relatively poorer workers from the Centre-South of the country, where employment opportunities are scarce. Therefore, these workers also obtained food and accommodation and managed to save more from their wages than workers employed in other firms, especially in Luanda, where living costs are high.

We find evidence that in Ethiopia sampled Chinese firms contribute to training and skill development at least as much as other firms in the same sector, but it is in the manufacturing sector where training is widespread and considered as much more necessary by firms. In Angola, all firms have to provide different forms of informal on-the-job training given the severe skill shortages in the country especially for workers lacking relevant experience and education, but national firms and some foreign firms tend to have some more formal types of initial induction training.

In relation to labour relations at the workplace we find evidence that generally leading national firms are more used to having trade union presence, whereas foreign firms, including Chinese companies, are more reluctant to engage with unions and adopt different management styles. However, we also found that there was no difference in the level of labour conflict across firms in both countries as all kinds of firms were similarly affected by strikes over wages, especially in the Ethiopian manufacturing sector. There were also no discernible differences between sampled Chinese and other firms in terms of safety, i.e. accidents or injuries at work, which were unsurprisingly more common in road construction in both countries.

Overall, therefore, the study shows that context, both national and sector contexts, as well as the circumstances of the economies and countries when surveys were conducted, are more important determinants of labour outcomes and labour relations than the origin of a firm.

中国企业和非洲的劳务市场动态:调研结果

   2019年6月21日

此调研项目《非洲工业发展、工程建设和就业:比较分析研究》(简称“IDCEA”):旨在探索非洲新兴建筑业和制造业工作条件层面的比较证据。最初的目标是弥补中国企业在非洲上述行业中创造就业和工作条件层面的证据缺失。此研究主要侧重于外国企业(包括中国企业)创造就业贡献尤为突出的两个行业:制造业和建筑业(建筑业中主要关注道路基础设施)。

因此,总体而言,此研究表明,决定劳动成果和劳动关系的更重要因素并不是企业的国别,而是国家和行业的具体背景情况;调研时期,当地经济和国家的情况。

此研究的另一个目的是分析不同经济增长模式下,国家新兴工业劳动力的特征。埃塞俄比亚和安哥拉为解答这些问题提供了有利的对比环境。项目国际调研小组分别于2017年3月至8月和2016年9月至2017年3月对埃塞俄比亚(837名工人)和安哥拉(682名工人)进行了广泛的定性研究、案头调研和两次大规模问卷调查。

这些工人分布在安哥拉的37家公司和埃塞俄比亚的40家公司,其中大约一半是中国公司。经过四年的混合方法研究,此项目即将结束,我们有一些初步的发现可供分享。

定性数据收集一直持续到2018年7月,公司管理层调研也于2018年完成。其后在2018年末和2019年初,通过电话调查收集了额外的纵向数据。

我们的调研方法是尽可能地比较条件类似的企业,所以选择了行业内特定和高度相关的子行业中表现最佳的中国企业、其它外国企业以及本地企业。也可以说,我们将所在国子行业中表现最佳的中资企业工人与其它表现最佳的企业工人进行了比较,而不是基于行业平均数。

关于创造就业和本地工人(埃塞俄比亚和安哥拉)在劳动力中的比例问题,我们发现:劳动力属地化比率远远高于媒体的普遍假设。在埃塞俄比亚,劳动力平均属地化比率高达90%(低技能工人为100%)。在安哥拉,由于技术工人的严重缺乏,属地化比率约为74%。我们发现,随着中国企业在安哥拉市场逐步稳定,该国劳动力属地化比率在过去十年中显著增长。

鉴于中国承包商在埃塞俄比亚和安哥拉的道路建设市场中占主导地位,特别是近年来,中国公司绝对是创造本地就业的主要贡献者。

我们还分行业比较了中国、其它外国和本地公司不同技能组(低技能和半技术)工人的实得工资。描述性和统计回归的综合分析表明,工人工资存在显著差异。在埃塞俄比亚,工资的主要决定因素是:工人技能水平;建筑行业(工资较高);工作年资;教育;工作经验;社会经济情况;工作地区(比如工业园区内工资略低)。

在安哥拉,工资的主要决定因素是:工人技能水平;工作年资;工作经验;社会经济情况;具体工作地区的影响。

一旦我们将所有这些因素考虑在内,工人的平均工资并不受公司投资国别的影响。换言之,一旦考虑到工人及公司的具体情况,中国公司工资抽样数据与同行业表现最佳的其它企业大体一致。

一个有趣的发现是:在安哥拉,许多中国公司雇用来自中南部(就业机会稀缺地区)的相对较贫穷的工人,采用了移民宿舍劳工制度。

这个制度使工人得到食物和住宿,可以比其它公司的工人节省更多的工资,特别是在生活费用高的罗安达。

我们发现有证据表明,在埃塞俄比亚,中国公司对培训和技能开发的贡献至少与同行业其它公司一样。在制造业中,培训是普遍的,并且被公司认为更加必要。

在安哥拉,鉴于该国严重的技能短缺,工人缺乏相关经验和教育,所有公司都必须提供不同形式的非正式在职培训,但本地企业和一些外国公司往往有更正式的初步入职培训。

关于工作场所的劳工关系,有证据表明,工会更普遍存在于行业内领先的本地公司,而外国公司,包括中国公司,更不愿与工会接触,或者尝试不同的管理方式。

然而,在安哥拉和埃塞俄比亚,我们发现公司面临的劳资冲突水平没有差异。所有公司都同样受到加薪罢工的影响,特别是在埃塞俄比亚制造业。

在安全方面,即事故或工伤,抽样的中国企业与其它企业之间也没有明显差异。意料之中,安全事故在两国的道路建设行业中更为常见。