Daily Management Review

With The Chinese Economy Slowing, Some Youth Choose To Forego Corporate Careers In Favour Of "Me Time"


Chu Yi, who is opting to "lie flat"—a Chinese euphemism for people who work just enough to afford to spend their time on what they enjoy—is faced with dwindling job opportunities as the economy slows down.

The 23-year-old, who is currently residing in Shanghai, was employed by a fashion company until she resigned two years ago due to her dislike of her employer and the frequent overtime she was had to work.

Chu now works one day a week from home for a travel agency, which allows her plenty of time to practise tattooing as she completes her six-month apprenticeship to become a professional tattoo artist.
She is not the only young Chinese person "lying flat"; statistics show that the number of young Chinese choosing not to pursue corporate jobs that they would have otherwise done are unknown, but the youth unemployment rate reached a record high of 21.3% in June 2023 amidst an economy still struggling to return to pre-pandemic growth levels, and several Chinese college graduates have stated that they are trading down to find a source of income.
"For me, there is not much meaning to work," Chu said. "Most of it seems to be finishing work for your manager and making your manager happy. So I decided I don't want to work."
Like Chu, some 280 million young Chinese were born between 1995 and 2010, and polls indicate that this generation, known as Generation Z, is the most negative of all the age groups in the nation.
Chinese President Xi Jinping faces a significant policy problem in calming this generation amid some of the worst economic growth in almost 50 years. The human resources ministry stated last month that more work will be required to support employment in 2024, particularly for the youth.

Although it could appear that some young people are choosing to leave the corporate rat race, Zhou Yun, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, stated that it is hard to ignore their pessimism about the future.
It's "profoundly challenging for young people to navigate rigid social inequalities, tightening political control and dim economic prospects," Zhou added, as China's economy slows and the employment market stays tight.

Young people like Chu are prioritising their own hobbies and well-being over what she called the "unending pressure" of corporate work as a result of all of this. Chu declared that her decision was "worthwhile" and that she was now much happier.
"My current salary, even though it's not a lot, is enough to cover my daily costs. Free time is worth much more than several thousand yuan," she said.