This Web book is based on public domain material provided by the US government and is available in several versions. See the editorial for more information.

Work Collectives

For modern Mongolians, the primary social units were based on occupation rather than locality. Employers, such as state-owned factories or government departments, commonly provided housing, meals in unit cafeterias, day-care facilities for workers' children, and sports and recreational activities. Trade unions in enterprises offered group holidays or week-long stays at special resorts or spas. Much emphasis was placed on the mutual ties and family-like relations among members of the collective. In cities fellow workers were guests and providers of gifts at weddings, and older members of work collectives often were described as taking a paternal or maternal interest in the performance of newly hired young workers. The process by which workers secured, or were assigned to, jobs was not clearly spelled out in Mongolian sources, but it evidently combined administrative direction with some degree of personal choice. The general shortage of labor meant that individuals had no problems finding jobs. However, the jobs they obtained may not have been those they most wanted. Although it was possible to change jobs or to be reassigned by the government, such changes were not common, and individuals usually expected to spend many years, if not their entire working lives, in one enterprise and one housing collective.

The organization of work units reflected Soviet models, and if there was a distinctively Mongolian character to such units, it was not captured in official accounts. As in the Soviet Union, there was a strong emphasis on the solidarity of the collective and its priority in the lives of the workers, as well as on the use of such managerial techniques as the designation of heroes of labor, the use of socialist emulation and socialist competition to spur production, and the promotion of "shock battalions" and "shock days" to meet or surpass quotas. These techniques were attempts to motivate a work force through the use of non-material incentives and through manipulation of group pressures. Students of Soviet and Chinese industrial relations refer to a distinctive pattern of "clientalist bureaucracy" and "neo-traditionalist" forms of patronage and dependency in the factories of those countries. Both the force of the Soviet example and inherited traditional Mongolian attitudes, toward hierarchy and broadly defined relations of subordination and dependence, made such patterns likely in Mongolia.

Last Update: 2010-12-07