The relevance of socially responsible blue-collar human resource management

Nick Lin-Hi (University of Vechta, Vechta, Germany)
Lisa Rothenhöfer (University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany)
Igor Blumberg (University of Vechta, Vechta, Germany)

Employee Relations: The International Journal

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 24 July 2019



The purpose of this paper is to investigate how Chinese factories can attract and retain blue-collar workers. While higher wages are typically considered to be an effective HR instrument in this regard, this paper argues for the relevance of ethics in the HR domain. To this end, the paper develops and tests the concept of socially responsible blue-collar human resource management (SRBC-HRM).


In a scenario-based experiment, 296 blue-collar employees from a Chinese garment factory responded to questionnaires measuring their job choice determinants regarding a fictitious employer. In the scenarios, pay level (average vs above average) and SRBC-HRM (good vs poor) were manipulated.


The results revealed significantly positive relationships between SRBC-HRM and Chinese blue-collar workers’ job choice determinants (employer attractiveness, employer prestige and recommendation intentions), which were moderated by workers’ perceived importance of employer prestige. However, there was no significant effect of above-average pay on the three job choice determinants. Moreover, average pay in combination with good SRBC-HRM had stronger effects on job choice determinants than above-average pay in combination with poor SRBC-HRM.

Practical implications

The study highlights the economic relevance of the ethical treatment of employees in the manufacturing sector. In addition, the findings challenge the predominant managerial view that monetary rewards are the most important factor for instilling productive employee attitudes and intentions.

Social implications

Poor labor practices are still widespread in factories in emerging countries. By indicating that SRBC-HRM improves factories’ bottom line, the study provides a powerful rationale for factory managers to improve working conditions.


The present paper introduces the concept of SRBC-HRM specifically tailored to the context of blue-collar workers in emerging countries, who have received little attention in the literature. In addition, the findings demonstrate the economic relevance of SRBC-HRM.



Lin-Hi, N., Rothenhöfer, L. and Blumberg, I. (2019), "The relevance of socially responsible blue-collar human resource management", Employee Relations: The International Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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