the rise of full time children in china a reflection of burnout and bleak job market
A growing number of young people in China have recently decided to become “full-time children.” These people decide to return to their parents’ houses for relief and a chance to reevaluate their professional routes since they are burnt out or unable to find work. This pattern draws attention to China’s harsh work environment and worrying youth unemployment rate. Young Chinese adults feel discouraged and stuck as the employment market becomes more competitive and unpredictable.
The Burden of Burnout
Poor work-life balance has long been linked to Chinese work culture. Many workers follow the “996” standard and work from 9 am to 9 pm, six days per week. Numerous young professionals are burned out and disillusioned due to the toll such long hours and the continual pressure to perform have on them. People like Julie, a former game producer, who is exhausted from their prior employment, compare their life to “walking corpses.” They prioritize their physical and mental health to find relief, even temporarily leaving their occupations behind.
Bleak Job Market and Youth Unemployment
Over one in five people in China between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed, a record-high proportion of the country’s youth. According to recently disclosed official data, the youth unemployment rate is now at 21,3%, the highest level since the data’s initial publication in 2018. However, these estimates do not consider the rural labour market, suggesting that the situation might be far worse. Julie and other young adults who have taken the risk of quitting their careers frequently struggle to locate new employment prospects. After leaving their prior jobs, the already challenging chore of looking for new employment becomes even more onerous.
The Age Discrimination Dilemma
The difficulties experienced by young Chinese professionals are further exacerbated by age discrimination and a lack of career opportunities. According to the “curse of 35,” a popular myth in China, businesses are more likely to choose younger, “less expensive” candidates than anyone above 35. Those in their mid-30s with financial obligations or hopes of beginning a family are put in a difficult situation by the double-edged sword of age discrimination and limited career options. There is a distinct sense of hopelessness among university students, some of whom resort to purposefully failing tests to put off graduation in the hopes of having better job opportunities afterwards.
Disillusionment in Higher Education
A college education has historically been considered a way to increase one’s chances of success in China’s cutthroat employment market. The labour market has become saturated due to the exponential increase in university enrolment rates from 30% to 59.6% between 2012 and 2022. Many recent grads struggle with disenchantment due to the depressing reality of a stagnating employment market. Some people use unusual graduation pictures as a way to convey their disappointment and symbolise their reluctance to accept the uncertain future that lies ahead. A record number of 11.6 million recent graduates are scheduled to enter the employment market, which would likely worsen the situation.
The Government’s Response
Despite being aware of these challenges, the Chinese government has attempted to downplay the severity of the issue. Mixed responses greeted Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s advice to young people to “eat bitterness” or endure suffering. Even the term “slow employment” has been adopted by state-run media to redefine unemployment, covering people who have not found work but are pursuing additional education, picking up new skills, or taking a gap year. However, this attempt to reframe the problem has drawn criticism since, according to some, it ignores the root causes of unemployment and the desperation that the majority of jobless people experience.
The growth of “full-time children” in China reflects the adverse effects of a demanding work environment and a depressing employment market. Numerous young Chinese professionals have temporarily sought refuge in their parents’ houses due to burnout and the difficult job market. Their difficulties highlight the urgent need for a more harmonious work-life balance and better job possibilities. While the Chinese government tries to change the perception of unemployment, it’s essential to recognise the struggles youth in the nation experience and strive towards practical solutions that deal with the current structural problems.