Assessing the Contribution of Social Capital to the Inclusion of Rural Migrant Workers within Urban Communities in Shandong Province, China

  • Fan He

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study provides new insights into social capital theory based on an analysis of the rational strain of social capital theory as integrated in research into private companies and the Marxist strain of social capital theory as integrated into the research of state owned enterprises (SOEs) under the Chinese political economic system. Institutional and organizational factors and interactions between people in state owned enterprises and private companies have been shown to affect individuals’ social capital. A primary objective of this thesis was to study the impact of social capital in different types of companies on the inclusion of rural migrant workers within urban communities. A case study approach has been used with data gathered in Zoucheng city and Rizhao city in Shandong Province, where one large SOE and four private companies are located. The study revealed that social capital
in private companies acts on the premise of mutual benefit and reciprocity. The study analysed the reasons why private companies had an inclusive environment which provided equal opportunities and career progression for rural migrant workers. Employees in state owned enterprises are seen to be less efficient than those in
private companies – the causes have been analysed. Barriers to entry to state owned enterprises are also seen to be higher for rural migrant workers. Snyder’s Hope Theory has been applied, for the first time, in the context of social capital, to examine employees’ social capital with respect to their hopes for career progression
in both the SOE and private companies. The empirical results demonstrate that a closer relationship between employers and employees creates more social capital and cohesion within private companies compared with state owned enterprises and contributes to employees’ aspirations for career progression, as well as indicating that potentially good career progression for employees depends on an effective social structure in companies which contributes to the improvement of “weak ties”. The norm of reciprocity such as “home culture” in private companies motivates
employees to expend effort to achieve their goals and develop their aspirations. This norm of reciprocity in private companies could be viewed as propitious to the solution of the problems of collective actions and in further improving the economic and political performance of society. Thus, it is considered advisable for national macro-economic policy to encourage the development of companies that possess this kind of social capital to which the less hierarchical management system has contributed, as well as a close relationship between leaders and their employees (for example
linking social capital), cohesive staff networks promoted by the company leaders and a corporate culture of reciprocity as the norm.

In addition, the increase in educational attainment of people from rural areas could aid them in independently seeking employment in urban society. College graduates from the countryside gain easier access to heterogeneous connections within companies. With an improvement in educational attainment, rural workers, especially
those with junior college educational accreditation, such as that obtained from a vocational technical college, were found by the research to be most urbanised. Enhancing vocational skills training and cultivating skilful workers helps improve relations and mutual trust within companies, which further assists rural migrant
workers’ work performance and inclusion within urban society.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • Royal Agricultural University
SupervisorKanes Rajah (Supervisor), Jonathan Turner (Supervisor) & John Nixon (Supervisor)

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