The Short-Lived Jobs: From Beginning to End

  • Yang Shen
Part of the New Perspectives on Chinese Politics and Society book series (NPCPS)


In China, marketisation has produced inequality in wealth between rich and poor, urban and rural. A restaurant is a social setting that represents and reproduces the inequality. Restaurant jobs, used to be characterised as ‘iron bowl’, are no longer secure jobs. Restaurant workers, used to be taken by local Shanghaiese, have gradually been replaced by rural migrants. This chapter shows how this inequality affected restaurant workers’ individual lives and how they dealt with discrimination that occurred in the restaurant. Having addressed workers’ unpleasant living conditions and low perceptions on their job in the previous chapters, the reader may wonder why the workers were willing to work in the restaurant since they thought the job was undesirable. To answer this, it is necessary to interrogate why they decided to come to the restaurant in the first place. In this chapter, I consider restaurant workers’ lives in the restaurant from beginning to end—their reasons for taking up restaurant work despite the fact that they perceived it as a job on the lowest rung, discipline and punishment they first encountered after enrolment, worker-customer relationships they had to deal with and how and why they made up their minds to quit the job. I pay particular attention to the mechanisms of coping and resistance at work.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yang Shen
    • 1
  1. 1.Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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