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Steering towards the High Road: A Study of Human Resource Management in Two Indian Garment Factories

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  • Lake, Henrietta

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    (Lake Advisory, London)

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    Abstract

    What are the performance benefits of investing in human resources in a low-cost labor environment where returns to such investment are widely perceived as negligible? This paper presents a matched pair case study on the performance effect of human resource management systems at two garment factories manufacturing for export in India. They make the same product for the same buyer with the same local pool of labor. One factory views its workforce as a variable cost to be minimized, limits training, prefers strict hierarchy and job definitions. It relies on a range of factors including the offer of overtime and a lack of available alternatives to workers for retention. The other factory, which is located almost next door and pays the same basic wage, focuses on skills development, opportunities for promotion and encouraging employee participation. Employee turnover at the first factory is almost three times greater than that of the second, its absenteeism one third higher, while its product quality is 2.6 times lower and its production efficiency over 28 percent lower. This study demonstrates that even in a low-wage environment, HRM and work organization have a tangible and independent impact on performance.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3227.

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    Length: 46 pages
    Date of creation: Dec 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3227

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    Related research

    Keywords: human resource management; labor productivity; labor standards; India; garments;

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    1. Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch, 2003. "What's driving the new economy?: the benefits of workplace innovation," Working Paper Series 2003-23, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    2. John MacDuffie, 1995. "Human resource bundles and manufacturing performance: Organizational logic and flexible production systems in the world auto industry," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(2), pages 197-221, January.
    3. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
    4. Paul Osterman, 1994. "How common is workplace transformation and who adopts it?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 47(2), pages 173-188, January.
    5. Kandel, Eugene & Lazear, Edward P, 1992. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 801-17, August.
    6. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
    7. Min, Wei-Fang & Tsang, Mun Chiu, 1990. "Vocational education and productivity: A case study of the Beijing General Auto Industry Company," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 351-364, December.
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