How do wages and working conditions in Chinese firms in Africa compare? Evidence from Ethiopia and Angola
Florian Schaefer (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Carlos Oya (SOAS)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a quantitative survey and over 100 qualitative interviews we compare wages and working conditions for low-skilled workers in Chinese companies in Ethiopia and Angola with those in other international and domestic firms. We find low wages, but wages and working conditions are comparable.
Paper long abstract:
The rapidly expanding investments of Chinese companies in Africa have attracted widespread attention, and have generated debates both in the continent and beyond about the implications for Africa's economic development. Driven in part by critical media reports, the wages and working conditions offered to African workers by Chinese companies have been a particular focus of interest. At the same time we still lack studies that systematically compare conditions in Chinese and non-Chinese enterprises. Drawing on a quantitative survey of 1,500 workers and over 100 qualitative interviews we compare wages and working conditions for low-skilled workers in Chinese companies in Ethiopia and Angola with those in other international and domestic enterprises. Our sample is drawn from the manufacturing and construction sectors in both countries, as these have seen especially high levels of Chinese engagement. We find that, with appropriate controls for company characteristics in place, differences in wages between Chinese and non-Chinese companies are small, and working conditions are comparable in a number of important dimensions, such as overall safety and the provision of a food and transport. However, this is in a context of low wages and long working hours across all surveyed companies. We also find that Chinese companies are more hostile to trade unions. We use qualitative life-history interviews with workers to illustrate how such conditions impact the overwhelmingly young African work force.
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