Catering to employment needs : the occupations of young Chinese adults in Britain
This study investigates the occupations of 16-30 year old British Chinese. It is intended as a contribution to the general literature on the Chinese in Britain, and to the literature on occupational choice/entry into work in which there have been no studies in Britain on this ethnic group. The aims of this research are two-fold: first, to establish the location of young Chinese adults in the British labour market; and second, to establish why they are positioned at their current level in the occupational structure. This involved the testing of the hypothesis that a bimodal distribution exists with young Chinese adults situated at the top (in the professions) and the bottom sections (in the service sector, specifically the Chinese catering industry) in the British labour market. Structural and cultural effects on the occupational attainments of these Chinese were examined through the exploration of the influences of family background, the role of education, and the impact of racism and discrimination. The method of data collection was by postal questionnaire, which was distributed using a snowballing technique within a social network. The primary data was analysed in conjunction with secondary data (Labour Force Survey). The initial hypothesis of a bimodal distribution was corroborated by the primary data. The secondary data was much less clear, although the underlying trend of the greater propensity of the Chinese to enter the professions or the catering industry (compared to white British, West Indian, and Asian young adults) was demonstrated. With regard to the three main variables explored, it was concluded: (1) that class effects were less significant than cultural effects as mediated through the family in influencing the occupational attainments of the young Chinese adults; (2) that the traditional cultural values and attitudes of the Chinese towards education were responsible for their (high) levels of educational attainment which the Chinese used to gain access into the professions; (3) but that the propensity of these Chinese to enter the professions and ancilliary positions in the wider labour market or conversely to enter the Chinese catering trade was the result of a strategy adopted by the Chinese to deal with the (real or perceived) structural constraints of racism and discrimination in the British labour market.