Labour Under Industrial Restructuring in Hong Kong: A Comparison of Textiles and Garments In this paper we attempt to present some basic information on the patterns of industrial restructuring and their impact on labour and industrial relations in the textile and garment-making industries in Hong Kong. We review the historical development of the two sectors and delineate the process of restructuring in the 1980s. While there are some basic similarities between the two industries in their strategies and patterns of restructuring, the contrasts are equally remarkable. We argue that, while textiles restructures by becoming more capital-intensive, garment-making continues to rely on the labour-intensive methods of production, surviving by a high level of marketing and production flexibility. We also find interesting similarities and differences in the impacts of restructuring on the employment conditions and industrial relations. On the one hand, industrial conflicts increased for both industries during the period of heightened restructuring activities. On the other hand, real wages dropped in garment-making, while they increased in textiles in the 1980s. In the conclusion we discuss the merits and limitations of three general perspectives in understanding the restructuring of Hong Kong industries. While the world economy and statist perspectives both sensitize us to the similarities in the restructuring process of the two industries, we propose an alternative economic culture argument to capture the contrasts. We suggest that the distinctive institutional configurations of each industry, namely, the combination of economic and technological structure, patterns of ownership and management, and the character of labour and industrial relations, might help to account for the comparative differences in the patterns of restructuring and the divergent impacts on workers.
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