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National Differences or Sector Effects? HRM in Japanese and UK Retail Multinationals in China

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Abstract

This paper seeks to assess whether national differences or sector effects best account for the pattern of HRM found in multinational firms. From a theoretical perspective, UK and Japanese firms are constituted by significantly different institutional and business logics. While the former is an exemplar liberal market economy, the latter is a coordinated market economy. Japanese firms are considered to have a long-term orientation, with labour regarded as a fixed cost, extensive training and strong internal labour markets. The UK system is
typically characterised by firms operating on a more short-term basis, with high labour mobility and limited investments in human resource development. Sector effects, by contrast, would suggest that firms operating in the same business sector, using similar categories of employees, are likely to exhibit similar modes of HRM.
Using survey data from 859 staff and managers at the subsidiaries of UK and Japanese retail multinational firms in China, the findings indicate little support for either the effect of sector or anticipated ‘national models’.
Instead, while some results are contrary to expectations, most are characterised by lack of consistency.

Bibliographic note

Academy of International Business Annual Conference, 25-29June, 2010, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil