Work Satisfaction of Chinese Women

  • Hang Yue NgoEmail author
  • Huimin Liu
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


This chapter reviews current literature on work satisfaction of working women in China. We focus on job and career satisfaction as key indicators of employees’ well-being in the Chinese workplace. To provide a full picture of the topic, we first describe the cultural and economic context in contemporary China that has profound effects on organizational practices, employment conditions, and individuals’ work orientations and values. We then examine previous studies on job and career satisfaction of Chinese workers and identify some important personal, family-related, and work-related antecedents. The main differences in work satisfaction between the two genders are specified. Based on the literature review, we highlight some unique characteristics in China that may have significant impacts on women’s work satisfaction. Finally, we suggest several directions for future research.


Job satisfaction Career satisfaction Economic reforms Working women China Gender discrimination Gender roles Work-family interface Cultural values 


  1. Allen, T. D., Herst, D. E. L., Bruck, C. S., & Sutton, M. (2000). Consequences associated with work-to-family conflict: A review and agenda for further research. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(2), 278–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bokemeier, J. L., & Lacey, W. B. (1987). Job values, rewards, and work conditions as factors in job satisfaction among men and women. Sociological Quarterly, 28(2), 189–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bruck, C. S., Allen, T. D., & Spector, P. E. (2002). The relation between work-family conflict and job satisfaction: A finer-grained analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 60(3), 336–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cao, Y., & Hu, C. Y. (2007). Gender and job mobility in postsocialist China: A longitudinal study of job changes in six coastal cities. Social Forces, 85(4), 1535–1560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen, Y. (2011). Chinese knowledge employees’ career values, perceived organizational support, and career success. iBusiness, 3, 274–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheng, Z. (2013). The effects of employee involvement and participation on subjective wellbeing: Evidence from urban China. Social Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s11205-013-0430-8.Google Scholar
  7. Cheung, F., Tang, C. S., & Tang, S. (2011). Psychological capital as a moderator between emotional labor, burnout, and job satisfaction among school teachers in China. International Journal of Stress Management, 18(4), 348–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chow, I., & Ngo, H. Y. (2001). Gender differences in job attribute preferences and job choice of university students in China. Journal of Applied Business Research, 18(2), 15–25.Google Scholar
  9. Chow, C. K. W., Fung, M. K. Y., & Ngo, H. Y. (1999). Job turnover in China: A case study of Shanghai’s manufacturing enterprises. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, 38(4), 482–503.Google Scholar
  10. Cooke, F. L. (2004). Women in management in China. In M. J. Davidson & R. J. Burke (Eds.), Women in management worldwide: Facts, figures and analysis (pp. 243–257). Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
  11. Cooke, F. L., & Xiao, Y. C. (2014). Gender roles and organizational HR practices: The case of women’s careers in accountancy and consultancy firms in China. Human Resource Management, 53(1), 23–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crosby, F. (1982). Relative deprivation and working women. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Currier, C. L. (2007). Redefining ‘labor’ in Beijing: Women’s attitudes on work and reform. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 13(3), 71–108.Google Scholar
  14. Danna, K., & Griffin, R. W. (1999). Health and well-being in the workplace: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Management, 25(3), 357–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. deVaus, D., & McAllister, I. (1991). Gender and work orientation: Values and satisfaction in Western Europe. Work and Occupations, 18(1), 72–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fraser, J., & Hodge, M. (2000). Job satisfaction in high education: Examining gender in professional work settings. Sociological Inquiry, 70(2), 172–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Froese, F. J., & Xiao, S. (2012). Work values, job satisfaction and organizational commitment in China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(10), 2144–2162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fu, W., & Deshpande, S. P. (2013). The impact of caring climate, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment on job performance of employees in a China’s insurance company. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1876-y.Google Scholar
  19. Gallagher, M. E. (2004). “Time is money, efficiency is life”: The transformation of labor relations in China. Studies in Comparative International Development, 39(2), 17–44.Google Scholar
  20. Gao, L. J., & Zheng, Y. (2012). Sex roles and division of household labor in married couples. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 26(7), 543–546.Google Scholar
  21. Granrose, C. S. (2007). Gender differences in career perceptions in the People’s Republic of China. Career Development International, 12(1), 9–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gu, Q., Wang, L., Sun, J. Y., & Xu, Y. (2010). Understanding China’s post-80 employees work attitudes: An explorative study. Journal of Chinese Human Resource Management, 1(2), 74–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Guen, Y., Wen, Y., Chen, S. X., Liu, H., Si, W., Liu, Y., Wang, Y., Fu, R., Zhang, Y., & Dong, Z. (2013). When do salary and job level predict career satisfaction and turnover intention among Chinese managers? The role of perceived organizational career management and career anchor. European Journal of Work and Occupational Psychology, 23(4), 596–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guest, D. (2008). Worker well-being. In P. Blyton, N. Bacon, J. Fiorito, & E. Heery (Eds.), The sage handbook of industrial relations (pp. 529–547). Los Angeles: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hodson, R. (1989). Gender differences in job satisfaction: Why aren’t women more dissatisfied? Sociological Quarterly, 30(3), 385–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Igbaria, M., Greenhaus, J. H., & Parasuraman, S. (1991). Career orientations of MIS employees: An empirical analysis. MIS Quarterly, 15(2), 151–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Judge, T., Cable, D., Boudreau, J., & Bretz, R. (1995). An empirical investigation of the predictors of executive career success. Personnel Psychology, 48(3), 485–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Konrad, A. M., Ritchie, J. E., Jr., Lieb, P., & Corrigall, E. (2000). Sex differences and similarities in job attribute preferences: A mata-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 126(4), 595–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kwok, S. Y. C. L., Cheng, L., & Wong, D. F. K. (2014). Family emotional support, positive psychological capital and job satisfaction among Chinese white-collar workers. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-014-9522-7.Google Scholar
  30. Lefkowitz, J. (1994). Sex-related differences in job attitudes and dispositional variables: Now you can see them…. Academy of Management Journal, 37(2), 323–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li, S., & Ngo, H. Y. (2014). Chinese traditionality and subjective career success: The mediating role of procedural justice and perceived job insecurity. Working paper, Department of Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  32. Li, W., Liu, X., & Wan, W. (2008). Demographic effects of work values and their management implications. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(4), 875–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li, N., Liang, J., & Crant, J. M. (2010). The role of proactive personality in job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior: A relational perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(2), 395–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Li, X., Frenkel, S. J., & Sanders, K. (2011). Strategic HRM as process: How HR system and organizational climate strength influence Chinese employee attitudes. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(9), 1825–1842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ling, Y., & Powell, G. N. (2001). Work-family conflict in contemporary China: Beyond an American-based model. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 1(3), 357–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu, J., Kwan, H. K., & Mao, Y. (2012). Mentorship quality and protégé work-to-family positive spillover, career satisfaction and voice behavior in China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(19), 4110–4128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liu, H. M., & Cheung, F. M. (2014). Testing crossover effects in an actor-partner interdependence model among Chinese dual-earner couples. International Journal of Psychology, 50(2), 106–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Locke, E. A. (1976). The nature and causes of job satisfaction. In M. D. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 1297–1349). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  39. Loi, R., & Ngo, H. Y. (2010). Mobility norms, risk aversion, and career satisfaction of Chinese employees. Asian Pacific Journal of Management, 27(2), 237–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Loscocco, K. A. (1990). Reactions to blue collar work: A comparison of women and men. Work and Occupations, 17(2), 152–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Loscocco, K. A., & Bose, C. E. (1998). Gender and job satisfaction in urban China: The early post-Mao period. Social Science Quarterly, 79(1), 91–109.Google Scholar
  42. Lu, H., While, A. E., & Barriball, K. L. (2007). A model of job satisfaction of nurses: A reflection of nurses’ working lives in Mainland China. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 58(5), 468–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mason, E. S. (1994). Gender differences in job satisfaction. Journal of Social Psychology, 135(2), 143–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McNall, L. A., Nicklin, J. M., & Masuda, A. D. (2010). A meta-analytic review of the consequences associated with work-family enrichment. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(3), 381–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mottaz, C. J. (1986). Gender differences in work satisfaction, work rewards, and values and the determinants of workers satisfaction. Human Relations, 39(4), 359–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ngo, H. Y. (2002). Trends in occupational sex segregation in urban China. Gender, Technology and Development, 6(2), 175–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ngo, H. Y., & Loi, R. (2014). Antecedents and outcomes of perceived gender inequity in the Chinese workplace. International Journal of Employment Studies, 22(2), 49–78.Google Scholar
  48. Ngo, H. Y., & Tsang, A. (1998). Employment practices and organizational commitment: Differential effects for men and women. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 6(3), 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ngo, H. Y., Lau, C. M., & Foley, S. (2008). Strategic human resource management, firm performance, and employee relations climate in China. Human Resource Management, 47(1), 73–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ngo, H. Y., Foley, S., Ji, M. S., & Loi, R. (2014a). Work satisfaction of Chinese employees: A social exchange and gender-based view. Social Indicators Research, 116(2), 457–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ngo, H. Y., Foley, S., Ji, M. S., & Loi, R. (2014b). Linking gender role orientation to subjective career success: The mediating role of psychological capital. Journal of Career Assessment, 22(2), 290–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nielsen, I., & Smyth, R. (2008). Job satisfaction and response to incentives among China’s urban workforce. Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(5), 1921–1936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nielson, I., Smyth, R., & Liu, Y. (2011). The moderating effects of demographic factors and hukou status on the job satisfaction—subjective well-being relationship in urban China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(6), 1333–1350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nolan, J. (2010). Gender and equality of opportunities in China’s labor market. In M. F. Ozbilgin & J. Syed (Eds.), Managing gender diversity in Asia: A research companion (pp. 160–182). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  55. Peng, K. Z., Ngo, H. Y., Shi, J., & Wong, S. C. (2009). Gender difference in the work commitment of Chinese workers: An investigation of two alternative explanations. Journal of World Business, 44(3), 323–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Phelan, J. (1994). The paradox of the contented female workers: An assessment of alternative explanations. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57(1), 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Qu, H. L., & Zhao, X. Y. (2012). Employees’ work-family conflict moderating life and job satisfaction. Journal of Business Research, 65(1), 22–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rudd, N. M., & McKenry, P. C. (1986). Family influences on the job satisfaction of employed mothers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 10(4), 363–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Russo, M., Guo, L., & Baruch, Y. (2014). Work attitudes, career success, and health: Evidence from China. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 84(3), 248–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rutherford, B. N., Wei, Y., Park, J., & Hur, W. (2012). Increasing job performance and reducing turnover: An examination of female Chinese salespeople. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 20(4), 423–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Saari, L. M., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Employee attitudes and job satisfaction. Human Resources Management, 43(4), 395–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Scott, D., Bishop, J. W., & Chen, X. (2003). An examination of the relationship of employee involvement with job satisfaction, employee cooperation, and intention to quit in U.S. invested enterprise in China. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 11(1), 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shaffer, M. A., Joplin, J. R. W., Bell, M. P., Lau, T., & Oguz, C. (2000). Gender discrimination and job-related outcomes: A cross-cultural comparison of working women in the United States and China. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 57(4), 395–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Shi, L., & Jin, S. (2013). Changes in the gender-wage gap in urban China, 1995–2007. In L. Shi, H. Sato, & T. Sicular (Eds.), Rising inequality in China: Challenges to a harmonious society (pp. 384–412). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Siu, O. L., Lu, C. Q., & Cheng, K. H. C. (2003). Job stress and work well-being in Hong Kong and Beijing: The direct and moderating effects of organizational commitment and Chinese work values. Journal of Psychology in Chinese Societies, 4(1), 7–28.Google Scholar
  66. Smyth, R., Zhai, Q., & Li, X. (2009). The impact of gender differences on determinants of job satisfaction among Chinese off-farm migrants in Jiangsu. Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, 7(3), 363–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Song, Y. P., & Dong, X. Y. (2013). Gender and occupational mobility in urban China during the economic transition. Research in Labor Economics, 37, 93–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Spector, P. E. (1997). Job satisfaction: Application, assessment, causes, and consequences. Bevely Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  69. Sun, F., & Xiao, J. J. (2012). Perceived social policy fairness and subjective wellbeing: Evidence from China. Social Indicators Research, 107(1), 171–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sun, N., He, Z., Wang, L., & Li, Q. (2009). The impact of nurse empowerment on job satisfaction. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 65(12), 2642–2648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tang, S. W., Siu, O. L., & Cheung, F. (2014). A study of work-family enrichment among Chinese employees: The mediating role between work support and job satisfaction. Applies Psychology: An International Review, 63(1), 130–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Thomas, D. C., & Au, K. (2002). The effect of cultural differences on behavioral response to low job satisfaction. Journal of International Business Studies, 33(2), 309–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. To, S. M., & Tam, H. L. (2014). Generational differences in work values, perceived job rewards, and job satisfaction of Chinese female migrant workers: Implications of social policy and social services. Social Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s11205-013-0470-0.Google Scholar
  74. Tu, H. S., Forret, M. L., & Sullivan, S. E. (2006). Careers in a non-Western context: An exploratory empirical investigation of factors related to the career success of Chinese managers. Career Development International, 11(7), 580–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wang, F. (2008). Boundaries and categories: Rising inequality in post-socialist urban China. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Wang, P., Lawler, J. J., & Shi, K. (2010). Work-family conflict, self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and gender: Evidences from Asia. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 17(3), 298–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Witt, L. A., & Nye, L. G. (1992). Gender and the relationship between perceived fairness of pay or promotion and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(6), 910–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. World Bank. (2002). China, country gender review. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  79. Yang, X., & Wang, W. (2013). Exploring the determinants of job satisfaction of civil servants in Beijing, China. Public Personnel Management, 42(4), 566–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Yu, W. H. (2008). The psychological cost of market transition: Mental health disparities in reform-era China. Social Problem, 55(3), 347–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Zhang, L., & Dong, X. Y. (2008). Male-female wage discrimination in Chinese industry: Investigation using firm-level data. Economics of Transition, 16(1), 95–112.Google Scholar
  82. Zhang, Y., & Hannum, E. (2013). Marriage, parenthood, and labor outcomes for women and men. In D. J. Besharov & K. Baehler (Eds.), Chinese social policy in a time of transition (pp. 223–248). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Zhang, L., Liu, J., Loi, R., Lau, V. P., & Ngo, H. Y. (2010). Social capital and career outcomes: A study of Chinese employees. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(8), 1323–1336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zhao, W. (2012). Economic inequality, status perceptions, and subjective well-being in China’s transitional economy. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 30(4), 433–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zhao, X. Y., Qu, H. L., & Ghiselli, R. (2011). Examining the relationship of work-family conflict to job and life satisfaction: A case of hotel sales managers. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 30(1), 46–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Zuo, J. P., & Jiang, Y. P. (2012). Work-to-family conflict and women’s construction of work/family roles in post-Mao China. Advances in Gender Research, 16, 139–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

Personalised recommendations