Date
21 January 2018
In an environment where companies place more value on younger workers, middle-aged employees often come under great deal of stress. Representational image: Reuters
In an environment where companies place more value on younger workers, middle-aged employees often come under great deal of stress. Representational image: Reuters

Why some Chinese youth are turning to ‘Buddhist lifestyle’

A 40-year-old Chinese programmer jumped to his death recently after he was forced to resign from his company. The news led to heated discussions in online forums about work pressures and midlife crisis.

According to reports, the programmer, said to bear the surname Au, used to have a successful career. After graduating from Beihang University in 2003, he joined Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier. In 2011, he left Huawei and joined its rival ZTE (00763.HK). He was then promoted to lead an R&D team and became a member of the middle-management.

No one knows exactly what led him to take the extreme step, but there is much speculation about work-related stress.

Well, the programing industry is similar to e-gaming, where youth is a key asset.

Young employees in their 20s can absorb new technologies quickly, work long hours, and they are usually paid less. By contrast, those who are in their 30s or 40s, they can’t compete with young colleagues in learning speed, and are less cost effective to their employers.

Huawei and ZTE are said to be fairly keen to keep their workforce young. For example, Huawei has reportedly been pushing front-line engineers above 34 to resign if they have not yet been promoted to mid-level managers.

ZTE also prefers to promote employees below 40 to mid-level management roles. Simply speaking, those close to 40 may be in jeopardy if they have yet to climb to senior positions.

Meanwhile, technology has eliminated the need for a large group of middle managers, further jeopardizing their prospects.

Having seen what is happening to these middle-aged workers, the younger generations in China, like those born in 1990s, are said to be embracing a more relaxed attitude and no longer striving for career achievements.

To them, peace of mind and health are more important. These people are the so-called Buddhist lifestyle youths.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 20

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RC

Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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