International HRM theory in transition: Navigating contextual realities in emerging markets


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The aim of this special issue is to explore how HRM operates in emerging markets and understand the reasons for variations in HRM models within these markets. Additionally, it also seeks to investigate the presence of inter- and intra-regional HRM differences in emerging markets and identify the underlying factors contributing to their existence. Amidst the constantly changing dynamics of the global business practices, HRM remains a fundamental element, playing a pivotal role in molding the success of organizations. However, the study of international HRM, particularly within the dynamic contexts of emerging markets, poses an important question: are our existing theories adequately equipped to illuminate the nuanced interplay between HRM practices and context, or is there a need for new theoretical frameworks to chart our course forward? 
It is held that a common distinctive attribute of emerging markets is their fluid and underdeveloped institutional arrangements which could potentially have a significant impact on how HRM is shaped in these less mature markets (Webster & Wood, 2005; Darwish et al., 2016). Within some emerging markets, institutional arrangements are not closely aligned, and interventions by different government arms are not well-coordinated (see Wood et al., 2014). As a result, key actors may face conflicting pressures, making it challenging to establish consistent HRM policies and practices (Oliver, 1999; Wood et al., 2020). For instance, it is argued that informal networks and local cultural scripts in the context of emerging markets (e.g., Middle East) may shape HRM practices in locally adapted, recognizable, models (e.g., Saqib et al., 2022). It is also held that the relationship between companies and autocratic governments in some emerging markets has a significant impact on the adopted HRM paradigms (Wood et al., 2020). In addition, it is argued that, even within seemingly similar emerging markets, there are significant inter- and intra-regional differences in HRM practices, mainly due to unique and distinct contextual factors, such as South Asia (e.g., Wajeeh-ul-Husnain, 2020) or the Middle East (e.g., Darwish et al., 2023). Overall, it is indeed evident within the existing literature that the unique contextual realities of emerging markets may profoundly influence the shaping of HRM practices and models. These diverse contextual factors highlight the complexity and variability in HRM paradigms across these less mature markets. Despite the explicit emphasis on the significance of internal and external contexts, the field of International HRM has yet to fully embrace the potential value of prioritizing context in its research (Haak-Saheem & Darwish, 2021; Farndale et al., 2023). 
In addition, existing literature on comparative capitalism, specifically within the framework of varieties of capitalism, has significantly contributed to the understanding of diverse economic systems by offering taxonomies such as liberal market economies and coordinated market economies (see Whitley, 1999; Hall and Soskice, 2001; Lane and Wood, 2009). These taxonomies have been extensively used to explain disparities in HRM practices among the most developed nations. However, a notable gap exists in comparative HRM research when it comes to comparing countries in the global south. Taxonomies have been developed for regions like Latin America (e.g., hierarchical market economies) and Africa (e.g., segmented business systems), but they differ substantially in terms of their foundational bases. The varieties of institutional systems approach (see Fainshmidt et al., 2018) aims to establish a coherent framework for comparing countries within the global south. However, despite its potential, this approach has not been extensively applied to compare HRM practices across these nations. Hence, there is also a compelling need to explore approaches for comparing HRM models among countries in the global south, especially considering that some advanced models seem to be emerging in this context. 
This special issue challenges conventional paradigms by shifting the focus from describing similarities and differences in HRM across contexts, especially in emerging markets, to questioning whether and how existing theories and methodologies allow us to explore these contexts fully. Our aim is to foster a deeper understanding of how context should inform theory, rather than theory merely informing our examination of context (Whetten, 2009; Al Jawali et al., 2022; Farndale et al., 2023). Equally important is how varying methodological perspectives could provide us with a deeper understanding on the workings and the evolvement of HRM in emerging market contexts against the backdrop of their fluid and underdeveloped institutional arrangements. We invite papers to contribute to this pivotal conversation. We seek submissions that transcend the conventional boundaries of international and comparative HRM theory and delve into the workings of how the specific contexts of emerging markets shape, challenge, and transform established theoretical frameworks (Al Ariss & Sidani, 2016; Haak-Saheem & Darwish, 2021; Farndale et al., 2023). We envision this collection of work as a catalyst for innovation, pushing the boundaries of international and comparative HRM research to better reflect the reality of HRM practice in diverse and rapidly evolving contexts.

List of Topic Areas

We invite papers that extend theory and empirical evidence on the following related main themes: 

  • Theme 1: How HRM practices are influenced and shaped by the unique and multifaceted national contextual realities of emerging markets? We welcome submissions that explain how HRM practices are influenced and shaped by the distinct national institutional and contextual arrangements of emerging markets. These contextual realities encompass a wide array of factors, including cultural norms, informal networks, legal frameworks, economic settings, historical legacies, and societal values, among others. For example, we invite papers to discuss how the cultural context of emerging markets significantly affects HRM practices. Researchers could uncover locally evolved mechanisms that shape HRM practices, explore the influence of local cultural scripts and informal networks on the evolution of HRM into varying (un)recognizable models, or investigate the unique cultural and institutional microfoundations of HRM in emerging markets. In addition, we invite papers explaining how varying legal and regulatory frameworks in different emerging markets influence HRM practices. We also invite papers that may address the potential impact of emerging markets' economic conditions and challenges on HRM practices. Moreover, we are interested to explore how political and economic stability, and social factors like gender equality and generational differences influence HRM practices in emerging markets.
  • Theme 2: Are there significant inter- and intra-regional differences in HRM practices in emerging markets, and if they exist, what underpins their existence? We invite papers that explore the regional and intraregional HRM differences in emerging makers, especially in those large emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, or within seemingly similar regions such as South Asia or the Middle East, among others. We expect you to explain why such differences exist between or within emerging markets. This exploration is essential to unearth and formulate new context-driven theories within the field of international and comparative HRM. By exploring the underlying reasons for these variations, scholars can contribute to the development of a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding that better captures the specifics of HRM practices in emerging markets. 
  • Theme 3: What are the catalysts driving the development of sophisticated HRM practices in specific global south nations? Again, existing literature on comparative capitalism, particularly within the varieties of capitalism framework, offers taxonomies extensively employed to explain differences in HRM practices among developed nations. However, a significant gap persists in comparative HRM research when extending the analysis to countries in the global south. This imperative becomes even more pronounced when considering the dynamic nature of the global south as a context for HRM. Amidst this dynamic context, it is intriguing to observe the emergence of advanced HRM models in certain cases. This phenomenon raises pertinent questions: What are the catalysts driving the development of sophisticated HRM practices in specific global south nations? How do these advanced models reconcile with the diverse institutional and economic contexts prevalent in this region? These inquiries underscore the complexity of HRM in the global south and necessitate further scholarly inquiry to unravel the underlying mechanisms that lead to the evolution of advanced HRM models within this context.

Submissions Information

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Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 01/03/2024 
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 01/07/2024


Al Ariss, A., & Sidani, Y. (2016). Comparative international human resource management: Future research directions. Human Resource Management Review, 26(4), 352-358. 
Al Jawali, H., Darwish, T. K., Scullion, H., & Haak-Saheem, W. (2022). Talent management in the public sector: empirical evidence from the Emerging Economy of Dubai. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 33(11), 2256-2284. 
Darwish, T. K., Singh, S., & Wood, G. (2016). The impact of human resource practices on actual and perceived organizational performance in a Middle Eastern emerging market. Human Resource Management, 55(2), 261-281. 
Darwish, T. K., Singh, S., Batsakis, G., & Potočnik, K. (2023). Cross‐Country Analysis of HRM Parameters in Emerging Markets: An Assessment of Measurement Invariance. British Journal of Management, 
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