Comparison between Working Life in UK and China

By John Dudovskiy

Working LifeThere are vast differences between working life in UK and China that relate to many aspects of employment. At the same time there are still some similarities between the workplaces in above two countries as well. The main points relating to the differences can be summarised into the following three points:

First, there are different perception of working hours in UK and China. In UK usually the working hours are fixed, and the cases of employees working beyond their working hours are rare, and even in these occasions they get paid for overtime. In China, on the other hand, although there are specific contracted hours for employees, nevertheless, the cases of employees staying beyond their contracted hours without additional payment are commonplace.

Second, there are different management styles in UK and China. Specifically, in UK the majority of managers practice democratic and participative management styles, and assign a part of the decision making function to their subordinates, by involving them in decision making process. In an eastern country like China, on the other hand, managers have paternity and authoritative management style, and the occasions where employees are involved in decision making are not common (Wood, 2009).

Third, there are differences in motivation between UK and Chinese managers. Financial rewards are considered to be one of the most effective motivational tools in UK workplaces. On the other hand, “while additional money may motivate Chinese employee, they will not generally demand rises directly. As members of collectivist society, the Chinese are more likely to see success or failure as a group effort, leading to group recognition and raises rather than individual rewards” (Silvermore, 2005, p.116).

Fourth, there are vast differences in duration of employment between UK and China. In UK it is popular among employees to change companies every several years caused by changes in circumstances, as well as because of the willingness of employees to be engaged in different types of experiences. In China, on the contrary, there is a different scenario, in a way that people tend to work in the same company for the duration of many years, and the cases of lifelong employment in the same company are not rare.

The main similarities between the working life in UK and China include increasing pressure on the workforce due to intensifying level of competition. Specifically, both, in China, as well as in UK the demand and pressure for each individual workforce has intensified because of the search for competitive edge management of the companies are engaged in.

Another point of similarities between the working life in China and UK relates to workforce becoming multicultural in both countries, as it has been stated that “both domestically, and globally multicultural workforce has become a reality” (Adler and Gundersen, 2008, p.127)

Moreover, the issues associated with CSR and their implications to each individual member of the workforce represent another point of similarity between working life in UK and China in a way that in both countries employees are obliged to behave in an ethical and responsible manner.


Changes in the Working Life in UK over the Last 100 Years

It is obvious that working life in UK has changed significantly during the last 100 years. Two persons, a supermarket customer assistant and a former security officer now in retirement have been interviewed with an attempt to establish the nature of these changes. As a result four following changes were identified.

First, demand on each individual employee has increased. This change in the working life has been mentioned by both interviewees. Specifically, customer assistant stated that “new rules and requirements are introduced consistently”, while ex-security officer remarked that “in our time technological gadgets and appliances we had to use in your work were limited in numbers and primitive” and accordingly using them was considerably easier.

Second, the cultural diversity among the workforce has intensified. Both interviewees mentioned this fact as a significant change that has taken place in UK working life. Regarding this issue ex-security officer stated that “nowadays, you have to work with the representatives of various cultural backgrounds”, and according to customer assistant “cultural diversity in the workplace, has its advantages, as well as, disadvantages.

Third, focus on customer services aspects of work has increased. Customer assistant stated that “the importance of providing excellent customer services for the businesses has increased” and it can be explained by businesses searching for competitive edge in the marketplace, and adopting high level of customer services as one of the main sources of competitive edge.

Fourth, the rights of employees have increased. According to ex-security officer “every day on papers you read about employees suing their bosses and companies for various reasons starting from unfair dismissal to sexual harassment”. The interviewee maintains that even though employees possessed some of these rights previously, using them in such a great extend has started relatively recently.  



  • Adler, NJ & Gundersen, A, 2008, International Dimensions of Organisational Behaviour, Cengage Learning
  • Silvermore, CP, 2005, Organisational Psychology in Cross-Cultural Perspective, NYU Press
  • Wood, G, 2009, Human Resource Management: A Critical Approach, Taylor & Francis



Category: HRM
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