Helping Out

Helping Out

Miri Song
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 247
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  • Book Info
    Helping Out
    Book Description:

    The growing body of literature on ethnic businesses has emphasized the importance of small family-based businesses as a key form of immigrant adaptation. Although there have been numerous references to the importance of "family labor" as a key ethnic resource, few studies have examined the work roles and family dynamics entailed in various kinds of ethnic businesses.Helping Outaddresses the centrality of children's labor participation in such family enterprises. Discussing the case of Chinese families running take-out food shops in Britain, Miri Song examines the ways in which children contribute their labor and the context in which children come to understand and believe in "helping out" as part of a "family work contract." Song explores the implications of these children's labor participation for family relationships, cultural identity, and the future of the Chinese community in Britain. While doing so, she argues that the practical importance and the broader meanings of children's work must be understood in the context of immigrant families' experiences of migration and ethnic minority status in Western, white-majority societies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0618-7
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 The Role of Family Ties in Ethnic Businesses
    (pp. 1-22)

    Chinese take-away food businesses (called take-out restaurants in the United States) have long been a common sight throughout Britain’s streets and, indeed, in many other countries. It is not uncommon to see children and other family members taking orders or packaging food in such businesses. They are, to the public eye, visible as workers in these enterprises. However, very little is known about how children in immigrant families may contribute to the running of ethnic businesses. This book examines the various work roles that children play, how they negotiate their family labor, and the implications of children growing up, in...

  5. 2 Chinese Migration and the Establishment of Take-aways in Britain
    (pp. 23-46)

    This chapter elaborates upon how the majority of Chinese families who migrated to Britain, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, came to rely upon the take-away trade as their main form of livelihood.¹ The bulk of Chinese overseas migration in the last 150 years has been from the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in south China. Most of these migrants were peasants, artisans, and small merchant traders, although there has also been the migration of Chinese students and professionals to various Western nations (Ng, 1968). Many early studies of the overseas Chinese noted the relatively nonassirnilated nature of Chinese communities...

  6. 3 “The Shop Runs Our Lives”
    (pp. 47-72)

    The nature and range of children’s labor in Chinese take-away businesses is not easily discerned from the outside or from the shop counter. If one were to walk into a Chinese takeaway, one might see a Chinese young person working at the counter and a glimpse of the kitchen. However, given the typical spatial demarcation between what young people called the front (the counter area and shop front) and the back (the kitchen and living areas), much of how family labor is organized is not ordinarily visible (Goffman, 1969). I gained a sense of the rhythms of family labor through...

  7. 4 Helping Out
    (pp. 73-99)

    The chinese young people in this study reported that there was a widespread understanding and expectation that all family members should work in their take-away businesses. Their understandings of their “family work contracts” (FWC) were centered upon the belief that they should, in principle, help their parents in their take-away businesses. The majority of respondents were unequivocal in saying that children should help their parents in their shops: Twenty-five respondents (of forty-two) said that children should help out as much as possible; fifteen respondents thought that while children should help out, there should be limits to how much work children...

  8. 5 Upholding and Negotiating the Family Work Contract
    (pp. 100-136)

    Chinese young peoples’ consensus that children should help out in their parents’ take-away businesses was central to the working of these family work contracts (FWCs). However, their stated beliefs in their FWCs did not necessarily mean that helping out was automatically or unproblematic ally achieved in these families. How children’s labor is elicited and maintained cannot be explained solely by culturally based assumptions about “natural” feelings of affection or obligation between parents and children. Nor can we make simplistic assumptions about children’s passivity and powerlessness in relation to their parents (Qvortrup, 1985).

    Although these children worked under their parents’ authority,...

  9. 6 Siblings’ Labor Commitments and Family Reputations
    (pp. 137-173)

    In addition to the fact that the negotiation of children’s labor tended to differ among families, individual children within families could experience or exhibit differential degrees of commitment to the family work contract (FWC). While the family is a shared environment, Frank Sulloway (1996) has argued that the family comprises a series of distinct micro-environments in which siblings experience it in different ways. Because some children exhibited more committed behavior than others in many of these families, the dynamics of FWCs ultimately could not be understood without examining individual children’s labor contributions (Song, 1997b). How did some children come to...

  10. 7 Looking to the Future
    (pp. 174-206)

    At the time of interviews, many of the families in this study were faced with a number of possibilities concerning the future of their businesses: Would someone take over the business? Would it be sold? Did the children in these families want the takeaway to continue? According to the young people in two-thirds of the twenty-five families, their parents did not want their children to stay in the catering industry and wanted them (both sons and daughters) to obtain higher education and professional qualifications instead. This finding accords with Freeborne (1980) and Chan (1986), who found that most Chinese parents...

  11. Appendix A: Locations of Take-away Businesses
    (pp. 207-208)
  12. Appendix B: Background Information on Young People
    (pp. 209-210)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-220)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-247)