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Who Changed Working Hours: A Labor Sociology Study of Working Hours

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China Social Science Review

No.4, 2021


Who Changed Working Hours: A Labor Sociology Study of Working Hours



Zhao Wei and Jens Thoemmes


The last thirty years have seen lots of discussions on the issue of working hours. A review of the Western literature shows that the system of standard working hours took shape as industrialization developed, spurred by multiple factors: technological advances, working-class movements, state intervention and improvements in management. In practice, the “standard” hours were affected by many variables. With the worldwide advent of post-industrial society from the 1980s on, standard working hours were gradually replaced by flexible working hours, affecting almost all industries and different types of workers. Important factors in the evolution of working hours include not only economic globalization, government deregulation and the weakening of trade unions, but also technological progress, structural alterations to work organization, and the resulting changes in management and methods of control. This is also behind labor sociology’s attention to employment relations, the economy of new retail formats, and social policies seen in the light of working hours. All this has expanded the research fields of labor sociology.