Cover of Precarious Asia by Arne L. Kalleberg, Kevin Hewison and Kwang-Yeong Shin
Precarious Asia
Global Capitalism and Work in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia
Arne L. Kalleberg, Kevin Hewison and Kwang-Yeong Shin


248 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503610255
Ebook ISBN: 9781503629837

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Excerpts and More

Precarious Asia assesses the role of global and domestic factors in shaping precarious work and its outcomes in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia as they represent a range of Asian political democracies and capitalist economies: Japan and South Korea are now developed and mature economies, while Indonesia remains a lower-middle income country.

With their established backgrounds in Asian studies, comparative political economy, social stratification and inequality, and the sociology of work, the authors yield compelling insights into the extent and consequences of precarious work, examining the dynamics underlying its rise. By linking macrostructural policies to both the mesostructure of labor relations and the microstructure of outcomes experienced by individual workers, they reveal the interplay of forces that generate precarious work, and in doing so, synthesize historical and institutional analyses with the political economy of capitalism and class relations. This book reveals how precarious work ultimately contributes to increasingly high levels of inequality and condemns segments of the population to chronic poverty and many more to livelihood and income vulnerability.

About the authors

Arne L. Kalleberg is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kevin Hewison is Weldon E. Thornton Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kwang-Yeong Shin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea.

"Precarious Asia fills a much-needed gap, challenging mainstream economics by combining historical institutional and critical political economy approaches to understand how national institutions structure precarious employment and its outcomes."

—Leah F. Vosko, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Gender & Work, York University

"An insightful and fascinating exploration of the drivers of precarious work in Asia, and of the variable, politically contested ways in which governments have sought to balance the competing agendas of firms requiring employment flexibility and of workers demanding basic social and livelihood protections."

—Frederic C. Deyo, Bartle Professor of Sociology, SUNY Binghamton

"Precarious Asia stakes out a commanding perspective situating country cases on a broad canvas that stretches across both the region and the globe. The authors open the field of vision to expose the scarred landscapes of labor relations and deep social fault-lines of precarity."

—Heidi Gottfried, Associate Professor of Sociology, Wayne State University

"Kalleberg, Hewison and Shin are compassionate in addressing the difficult situation confronting working people in an age of increasing precarity... Their comparative analytical framework will be very useful to scholars and activists who wish to further investigate and monitor the long-term development of Japan, South Korea and Indonesia from the perspective of employment rights. The dynamism of Asian capitalism and labor politics, mediated by national states and other political actors across different levels, receives an insightful analysis in Precarious Asia."

—Jenny Chan, Journal of Contemporary Asia

"Precarious Asia is informative, as its audience can trace the changes of precarious work in the three Asian countries. The authors successfully discover the patterns of precarious work in the labor market and, more important, compare how international pressures played out distinctively as well as similarly."

—Yooseop Chun, Industry and Labor Relations Review

"With case studies of Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, this multidisciplinary, comparative research raises serious questions about how the global economy, capital, and labor interact to create this outcome. ... Recommended."


"Precarious Asiais an important addition to the fields of political economy, global capitalism, work and labor, stratification and inequality, and welfare states. Readers will greatly benefit from the broad comparative knowledge that the book offers regarding the changing shapes of employment and their implications for socioeconomic inequality in contemporary neoliberal capitalism."

—Yoonkyung Lee, Social Forces

"In Precarious Asia: Global Capitalism and Work in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia, Arne Kalleberg, Kevin Hewison, and Kwang-Yeong Shin provide a comprehensive view of precarious work in three of Asia's most important economic powers. Their effort is an ambitious one, spanning the history of precarious work in each country, the global and domestic forces that have shaped the extent and type of precarity, and the consequences for inequality and poverty."

—Mary C. Brinton, American Journal of Sociology