Exploring Post80s generation's meaning of work in comtemporary urban China

Ziyu Long, Purdue University


This study explored the meaning of work constructed by the newest generation of employees in the urban Chinese workforce, the Post80s generation or individuals born from 1980 to 1989. Brought up in the "Reformed" and "Opened" China, the Post80s generation is becoming increasingly visible in the global workforce, yet their meanings of work have rarely been explored. Based on thematic analysis of twenty one-on-one interviews with urban Post80s workers, five themes emerged from their discourses about meanings attached to work. (a) Post80s workers worked to establish their guanxi (personal connections) within and outside the organization for enhancing their social status and personal interests. (b) Post80s workers also worked to earn mianzi (face) for themselves and their families, as work provided these "only children of the family" a platform to earn mianzi by showcasing their ability, social status, and financial capital. In addition, (c) facing many financial challenges, Post80s workers in urban China worked to secure needed income to yang jia (support the family) hu hou (support themselves). Moreover, (d) Post80s workers worked to learn and develop. They enjoyed learning new things and worked to enhance their competence for future career development. Last, but not the least, (e) Post80s worked to achieve their personal value. They believed that work was an expression of the self and valued the sense of achievement in their work greatly. The Post80s' discourses were complex, dynamic, and sometimes paradoxical. Their interpretations of work were deeply rooted in societal Discourses of contemporary and traditional China, which included Capitalism, Communism, Confucianism and work Discourse related to the One Child policy.




Morgan, Purdue University.

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