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Class performance: An empirical case of Chinese service workers in hair salons

Published version
Peer-reviewed

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Abstract

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pChina's service sector has attracted millions of internal migrants from impoverished rural areas. This research investigates how service work contributes to the reproduction of class inequalities in China through the everyday interactions between service workers and customers. Based on 15 in‐depth interviews with Chinese service workers in hair salons, this research argues that the workers conducted class performance to distinguish their class from others. Specifically, they displayed aesthetic and interactive class performance at work through aesthetic labour and deferential work to legitimize the superiority of middle‐class aesthetics and the middle‐class customers' sense of entitlement. Moreover, under the circumstances of increasing job instability and the jats:italicsuzhi</jats:italic> discourse, the workers' class performance could also be extended to their lives through entrepreneurial labour and relational work. While the service workers could exert agency through certain strategies in their class performance, their agency was still limited in the structural constraints and even reinforced class inequalities. This research deepens the understanding of class inequalities in the Chinese context and provides policy implications to diminish class inequalities.</jats:p>

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Keywords

35 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services, 4410 Sociology, 44 Human Society, 10 Reduced Inequalities, 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Journal Title

Regional Science Policy and Practice

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

1757-7802
1757-7802

Volume Title

Publisher

Elsevier BV