- Ivana Davidovich
- Business and Finance Correspondent – BBC News
“I keep getting rid of negative energy in my life. I think 2022 will be better than 2021, but I still feel like I do not want to do anything. I’m going to stay lazy. I’m enjoying it.”
When Jeff (not his real name) left Hangzhou to work for a well-paid app developer in Beijing, the job took up all his time and life like many young Chinese professionals.
And he spent some free time outside playing what he described as “reckless” computer games.
He did not improve his social life in his new town, and eventually stopped trying.
But when the epidemic broke out in the country, the life he was used to came to a sudden halt, and like many other workers, Covid had his life priorities reevaluated.
While chatting with his artist friends in his hometown, he was struck by how, even though they did not have money in abundance, they always found interesting things and future plans to talk about when Jeff had nothing but work.
When his company started laying off employees due to the pandemic, he had to work 60 to 70 hours a week and eventually got out and took time to travel.
While staying in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Epiphany, he watched groups of elderly people gather in a nearby bar to relax, chat and watch football for hours at a time. He thought about their lives and said to himself: Why not be like them too, just relax and enjoy the idle state?
Indeed, he did exactly that when he returned home and resigned his job, and is one of many Chinese citizens who have either quit or scaled down their commitment to work in the past two years.
The idea of ”lazy”, or tang ping in Chinese, means to take a break from hard work.
The Tang Ping movement has taken hold over the past year, with many feeling under increasing pressure to work harder and outperform their peers.
Tired of hard work
This trend is caused by the declining labor market in China, which means that young people are now under pressure to work much longer hours and are eventually exhausted.
“People now feel apathetic, they have to deal with coronavirus and they feel tired,” said Kerry Allen, BBC China media analyst. Rather than gaining momentum through hard work. ”
While the Covid pandemic may subside, Tang Ping is not. On Chinese social media, users post that they do not want to go back to how things were before the pandemic, and that they now have the confidence to lead a slower life.
China’s former one-child policy meant that these young professionals grew up without siblings, and this only contributed to the anxiety of many of them.
Traditional values are still very important in China (such as the ability to buy a home and have children), but many young people in their twenties and thirties are worried that they will never be able to achieve these things.
Even children, to name just a few, will also have to care for their elderly parents, and for many people, property prices are becoming increasingly unattainable.
In 2019, Jack Ma, the entrepreneur and founder of the Alibaba Group, was criticized for endorsing the so-called 996 work culture in China – where people work from 9:00 in the morning to 9:00 in the evening, six days a week. day. week.
Last year, the country’s Supreme Court and Ministry of Labor declared the practice illegal. However, if Job 996 is still required for success on a professional level, it may not be surprising that some young people choose to retire altogether.
Demographic trends mean that social pressure on young people is likely to increase.
By 2035, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that 20 percent of China’s population will be over 65, which will put more pressure on young people to support older generations.
Jeff, who did not want to be identified, described his decision to give up his job and life in Beijing as a “silent protest against current rules, a rejection of what he calls people to learn and work harder”.
It may sound almost like an act of sabotage in China.
These sentiments, expressed by Jeff, were so widespread that Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a clear warning in an article in a Communist Party newspaper.
“It is necessary to prevent the consolidation of social stratification, to facilitate the channels of upward flow, to create opportunities for more people to become rich, to form a development environment in which everyone participates, and to ‘look inwards’. ‘and’ inertia, ‘”he wrote.
In China, such intergenerational differences are not uncommon. In both the United States and Europe, economists describe it as a “big resignation” as millions of workers retire, stop or refuse to take on tasks they consider useless or unprofitable.
Could laziness be the Chinese version of these trends?
Lauren Johnston, a research assistant at the China Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, says there are different drivers for this trend.
First, there are young rural immigrants in Beijing or Shanghai, who now realize “what time they are in terms of enough money to be able to buy a house, or compete with urbanites who have grown up and speak English and are elegantly dressed.”.
Johnston explains that some in this group may now consider returning to their hometowns and taking low-paying jobs to be with their families.
On the other hand, there are children born to richer and more successful parents who are not “as hungry as the excellent children from poor families”.
Johnson believes that the so-called “tiger” culture in China is an additional obstacle, as parents feel they are under great pressure to help their children achieve this, which is that school alone is not enough, but they have to pay for it. additional lessons in math, Chinese, English and music, or To prepare for competitive entrance exams.
It remains to be seen how it all ends at a time when China is facing difficult economic conditions, slower growth, rising debt, and the country’s real estate sector could face a total collapse.
As for Jeff, he finally got another job after pressure from his parents, but he said it was a less demanding job. He earns half of what he previously earned, but says he is so flexible that he plans to stay in business for the foreseeable future.
“I will be able to continue to do all the hobbies I discovered during the period of relaxation and laziness, skiing and rock climbing, I now have time to do what I love, I am now very satisfied.”