When Sean Liang turned 30, he began to think about the curse of 35 – a widespread belief in China that white-collar workers like him face inevitable job insecurity once they reach that age. In the eyes of employers, the curse is that they are more expensive than fresh graduates and are unwilling to work overtime.
Mr. Liang, now 38, is a technology support professional turned personal trainer. He has been unemployed for most of the past three years, partly because of the pandemic and China’s declining economy. But he believes that the main reason for this is his age. He’s too old for many employers, including the Chinese government sets the age limit for appointment for most Civil servant on posts 35, If the curse of 35 is a legend, it is supported by some facts.
He said in an interview, “I exercise, so I look very young for my age.” “But people like me are obsolete in the eyes of society.”
China’s economic situation has declined after the epidemic, and the Curse of 35 has become a topic of discussion on the Chinese Internet. It’s unclear how this incident began, and it’s hard to know how much truth is in it. But there is no doubt that the job market is weak and age discrimination is also weak. not against the law Popular in China. It’s a double whammy for workers who are over 30 and making big decisions about careers, marriage and children.
A viral online post said, “35 is too old to work and 60 is too young to retire,” implying that people of prime working age have limited prospects. There is a shortage and older people may need to keep working like the government. considering raising the retirement age, The post goes on to say: “Avoid home ownership, marriage, children, car ownership, traffic, and drugs, and you will own happiness, freedom, and time.”
Mr Liang has since moved back to his home village of Guangzhou in southern China because he could not afford the rent of less than $100 a month. he is not married; Neither do his three cousins, around his age. He said that only people with stable jobs like government employees and teachers can afford to start a family.
An official at the National Health Commission, which oversees demographic policies, pointed out that increasing competition in the job market is one reason young Chinese are delaying marriage. Quoted As the Chinese news media said last year.
It’s hard to trust Chinese government employment data, which counts anyone working one hour a week, That low level has kept the urban unemployment rate slightly above 5 percent for most of this year, which is better than in 2019.
Figures from the corporate world tell a different story. In the first three months of this year, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, among the country’s biggest internet companies and highest-paying employers, made roughly twice as much as during their hiring peak during the pandemic, according to their financial reports. Hired 9 percent fewer employees. Some of China’s biggest real estate developers cut their workforce by 30, 50 or even 70 percent in 2022.
In the late 1970s, Wang Mingyuan, a Beijing economist, wrote in a widely circulated letter that “the next few years will be the most challenging time for employment since reform and opening up”. Article, Some 50 million people aged 16 to 40 could be unemployed by 2028, he said, adding “this could spark a series of deep crises.”
In 2022, the number of marriage registrations is set to drop 10.5 percent from a year earlier, the lowest number since China began disclosing the data in 1986. The country’s birth rate fell to a low last year, and its population declined for the first time since 1961. , End of the Great Famine.
Age discrimination affects all older workers, but people in their mid-30s may feel it most acutely because they are experiencing it for the first time.
When Flynn Fan was 30 years old, he started to fear the age of 35. He knew he would be laid off in a few years, but until then his problem was more work.
Most of his colleagues at his last company, he said, were either single like him, or married without children. His overtime shift was out of control. Mr. Fan said, for three months in 2021, the first thing he left work at 11 pm, he started taking anti-anxiety drugs.
Then late last year he was let go, along with most of his colleagues at an artificial intelligence company in Shanghai.
In the past six months, he has sent his resume to over 300 companies and has had 10 interviews without any offers. Now they are looking for jobs that pay 20 to 30 percent less. He also started looking in other cities near Shanghai.
Even at the age of 35, he feels himself young. But for society, he said, 35 is like a “plague”.
Sissy Zhang is 32 years old and employers have already told her she is too old. She showed a screenshot of a job posting in a company that sold maternity products that set the age limit as under 32. One of his former supervisors told him that he could hire a young graduate in his place after three months of training.
Chinese companies prefer to follow the hottest trend rather than improve what they already have, he said. So experience and expertise are not the qualities they value most
As a woman, Ms. Zhang faces additional layers of discrimination. Since she was 25, she has fielded questions from employers about when she planned to have children. When she replied that she and her husband had no such plans, she would be asked what their parents thought of their decision.
After being laid off in September, Ms. Zhang, a marketing professional, messaged more than 3,000 companies, sent her resume to more than 300 and landed fewer than 10 interviews. Last month, he finally got a job offer from a small company.
He accepted the job, feeling no excitement or happiness about it.
“I had hopes. I wanted a promotion, a pay raise and a better life,” she said. “Now I don’t have anyone. I just want to survive.
She and her husband feel that they are not able to have children. They have a mortgage and when she is out of work they barely make ends meet, while he worries he might lose his job too.
His concerns lead him to wonder whether having children is worth it. Ms. Zhang quoted a popular saying on the Internet: “If having a child means inheriting one’s toil, nervousness and poverty, then not giving birth is also a form of kindness.”
Mr. Liang, a 38-year-old tech professional, echoed similar sentiments. He loves children but doesn’t believe he can give them a good life. Like many Chinese who grew up in rural areas, he was raised by his grandparents while his parents worked in the cities. He would not want his children to have that life.
Besides, he has to find a job first. Even before the pandemic, he was asked in an interview why he was applying for a technical support position at this age. He showed me his local provincial government job listing: the age requirement was 18 to 35 for all positions.
When I remarked that the 35 must weigh like a mountain, Mr. Liang replied, “It’s the moat.”