Some young adults in China have a new job title: Full-time children

Young people in China are navigating a tumultuous labor market with a curious new job title.

Doctor, lawyer, teacher… child?

The back of a woman’s head who has black hair and is wearing a graduation cap and gown with China’s flag in the background.

One of those careers is not like the rest — but it’s an option for some young adults in China looking for their next step.

The “full-time children” phenomenon has amassed 40m views on China’s social app Xiaohongshu, and is becoming increasingly popular among recent college graduates, per the Los Angeles Times.

But why?

Because there’s a major mismatch between the job market and the applicant pool.

Chinese youth — many of whom spent years pursuing academic and professional goals — are finishing higher education to find there are no jobs:

  • China’s unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds in urban areas hit a record 21.3% in June, and had risen every month this year through August (the government has since suspended reports).
  • On the flip side, China’s higher-education enrollment ratio reached 59.6% in 2022.

Rather than taking jobs that are financially or intellectually unfulfilling, some youths are sticking with a role they held before leaving for college: child.

Being a professional child…

… is about more than just sleeping in a twin bed at your parents’ house.

Some are actually earning an income from their families (or at least having their expenses covered) in return for providing caretaking services, cleaning, or running errands.

It’s a drastic departure from China’s infamous “996 culture” — i.e., working 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

Full-time childhood…

… is just the newest ripple from a faltering job market.

And it joins a host of other trends driven by young people:

  • Tangping,” or “lying flat,” was coined by Chinese Gen Zers and millennials to describe taking a break from the grind of constant achievements.
  • The newest, more nihilistic iteration, “bailan,” or “let it rot,” is about giving up on a hopeless situation.
  • Some are even throwing resignation parties to celebrate their exit from the corporate world due to burnout and dissatisfaction.

All this comes as China continues to emerge from its strict pandemic lockdowns, which caused weakened consumer spending, higher debt, and a worsening real estate market.

Even worse: A recent opinion piece from a Chinese outlet contends that if the ~16m young people “lying flat” in their parents’ homes were included, the true youth unemployment rate could’ve been as high as 46.5%.

Topics: Culture Jobs

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