1. Trust, Distrust and Credit Ratings in the Domestic Workers Labour Market
The social credit system is not one single score used in every single transaction. Rather, under the label of the social credit system several sector specific rating and black listing systems are created and expanded in collaboration between the government and the relevant industries. One example is the rating and blacklisting of domestic workers, a sector where trust becomes particularly important as relative strangers come into close contact with the employer’s family and private life. Middle class families hiring domestic workers have been frightened by recent examples of untrustworthy domestic workers – particularly a gruesome case of a nanny burning down the house of her employer. This perceived trust deficit along with the rapid growth in the domestic service sector has sparked a development of increased registration, rating and blacklisting in the industry.
The labour market for domestic workers in China has grown and diversified with an increasing number of companies acting as intermediaries, connecting rural labourers with prospective urban employers. We study how first local experimental systems and later systems integrated with the social credit system digitally register the trustworthiness of domestic workers. We thereby seek to understand how a changed infrastructure for trust mediation may reconfigure who has the right to categorize labour and change the very categorization of domestic labour. We show that the Chinese state plays an ever-increasing role in digital registration through the integration with the SCS, thereby creating a labour market where state policies to decrease urban-rural inequality may play an increasing role. However, the formalization of classification systems at the same time creates an infrastructure for more rigid discrimination. The standards for becoming blacklisted on the one hand appear more transparent than the subjective prejudices, personal networks and company owned blacklists from the pre-SCS era, but are at the same less negotiable and lack nuances.