Intern Labor in China


  • Jenny Chan The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Department of Applied Social Sciences


intern labor, student workers, internships, vocational schools, labor agencies, the state, China


Internships have become integral to the development of vocational education in China. This article looks into the quasi-employment arrangements of student interns, who occupy an ambiguous space between being a student and being a worker at the point of production. Some employers recruit interns on their own, while others secure a supply of student labor through coordinated support of provincial and lower-level governments that prioritize investments, as well as through subcontracting services of private labor agencies. The incorporation of teachers into corporate management can strengthen control over students during their internships. While interns are required to do the same work as other employees, their unpaid or underpaid working experiences testify that intern labor is devalued. Exposés of abuses, such as using child labor in the guise of interns, have pressured the Chinese state and companies to eventually take remedial action. Reclaiming student workers’ educational and labor rights in the growing intern economy, however, remains contested.

This is a reprint of the original article that appeared in:

Rural China: An International Journal of History and Social Science, 14 (2017) 82-100.

Reprinted with permission. 


Jenny Chan, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Department of Applied Social Sciences

Assistant Professor of Sociology and China Studies


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Ad-Hoc: Labour in China: Structural Changes, Opening and Closing Processes