Labour Studies Index

The Nature of Front-Line Service Work: Distinctive Features and Continuity in the Employment Relationship

Document type Article
Author Belanger, J.
Author Edwards, P.
Journal Work, Employment & Society
Volume 27
Date 2013-06-01
ISSN 0950-0170, 1469-8722
Pages 433-450


Empirical studies increasingly reflect the importance of service work in the economy. This article analyses the implications of this evolution for theories of work and employment. It critically reviews some key notions that are taken for granted in the research literature on service work and elaborates an alternative conceptual model. A deeper understanding of service work is possible only if the worker-customer interaction is conceived as part of the social structure that shapes it, namely the employment relationship. This article throws light on the interconnections between management control and customer demands and suggests that these have a mutually reinforcing effect which puts pressure on employees. It insists on both the distinctive features of front-line service work and the founding principles of the employment relationship that still apply beyond such categories. --Publisher's description