Managing employer social insurance compliance is a particularly difficult governance challenge in emerging economies that have weak regulatory regimes. Utilizing qualitative evidence from eight case studies conducted in Shanghai, the People's Republic of China, this article details how employers respond to attempts by the State to manage social insurance behaviour. Five concerns arose from employers' perceptions and responses to the established policies and regulatory structures: construction of an effective policy, level playing field, cost control, firm reputation, and recruitment and retention. Further, the findings indicate that there are three enterprise features that could affect compliance behaviour: risk factors, skill composition of the workforce, and form of ownership. It was anticipated that firm size may affect compliance behaviour, but no clear pattern emerged.