Service outsourcing and labour mobility in a digital age

transnational linkages between Japan and Dalian, China

Kumiko Kawashima*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I examine the transnational mobility of digital workers and the control of their labour across multiple production sites. The digitalization of work has progressively allowed businesses to outsource IT-enabled service jobs to cheaper production sites offshore. The growth of the 'offshore outsourcing' of white-collar service jobs in East Asia has produced the mobility of cheap digital labour from Japan to Dalian in northeast China. They work at call centres and other Japanese-speaking workplaces in the lower echelons of the city's IT sector, typically earning salaries in Chinese yuan at, or even below, the average Japanese minimum wage. Based on ethnographic findings, I argue that in the global digital economy, digital services are rendered exploitable through their transnational mobility and that this form of labour migration has developed because of the partial, fluid and contingent nature of the transnational links between the two locations. I analyse how the neoliberal logic of exception underpins the creation of IT parks in China and the casualization of labour in Japan to enable new forms of transnational labour control and capital accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-499
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Networks
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

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