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Identity and border setting: a qualitative study of homeworkers in China

Trevor Tsz-Lok Lee (The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po,Hong Kong)
Xiyue Ma (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Social Transformations in Chinese Societies

ISSN: 1871-2673

Article publication date: 14 June 2019

Issue publication date: 29 November 2019




The purpose of this study is to systematically analyze how homeworkers perceive, interpret and make sense of their situations in relation to work and leisure participation. Thus, this study examines the dynamics by which homeworkers struggle to manage leisure and work in their everyday lives, with a special emphasis on how they interpret and make sense of their leisure–work dilemmas.


Using the framework of a dynamic intersection of identity orientation and border-setting approach, this study analyzes qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 13 young, home-based teleworkers in Shanghai.


Unlike the purpose of family-friendly employment policies, homeworkers who had striven for a better leisure life ended up with frustration and disappointment, regardless of their attempts at separate leisure–work borders or not. In contrast, the overwhelming work in a homeworking context paradoxically led to a more fulfilling and satisfying life for most who prioritized work over all else in life.


In the cases of home-based work or other flexible work policies that aim to make a better balance of work and life, public attention has been directed merely toward a debate of whether these policies lead to an enhanced quality of leisure life or an intensification of work intrusion. However, understanding the complexity of such emerging phenomenon requires a richer, more nuanced explanation. In this light, this qualitative study of homeworkers’ lived experiences is sociologically relevant for deciphering the relationship between leisure and work in the late-modern society that entails an evolving process of negotiating identities and situational variability.



Lee, T.T.-L. and Ma, X. (2019), "Identity and border setting: a qualitative study of homeworkers in China", Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 94-113.



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