With unkempt hair, unwashed clothes and dirty shoes, one might wonder why a couple of young Chinese men and women are still smiling in their pictures posted online. But there are lots of reasons to be joyful – they’re part of the growing “naked resignation” trend: white-collar workers, tired of the daily grind, quitting their jobs with no new job lined up. Some are heading off into the world looking for an adventure, some just want to wait for the perfect job.
Those that do it and those that dream of it still have to struggle against customs and responsibilities, and most importantly, families that think it is a waste of time: ‘who will take care of you when you’re old if one pursues his or her youthful dreams now?’
Aurora Borealis: One of the most beautiful sights in the world.
Source: Image Editor
Rigid work schedules
By law, the average Chinese worker works 40 hours per week (Monday-Friday, eight hours per day). But it’s rarely adhered to as many have to work long hours without getting overtime pay. It’s a relentless pursuit of money with most working on the weekends and/ or during the national holidays that can easily total up to 70 hours or more.
According to the Global Wage Report 2012/13, published by United Nation’s International Labour Organization, wages in China roughly tripled over the last decade among “urban units” – those who work in state-owned enterprises, collective-owned units and other types of companies that are linked to the State. Table A6 of the report puts China among the upper-middle income bracket with 26 other countries (about US$3,976 – $12,275 income per capita).
However, China has a varying minimum wage scale, which is dependant on the local government. Each sets their minimum wage based on the locals’ living conditions as stipulated in Article 48 of the Labour Law. Provincial governments have “classes” for the whole region. As of March 2013, Shanghai leads the nation with the highest monthly minimum wage (1,620 RMB), followed by Shenzhen (1,600 RMB). Anhui has the lowest minimum wage (1,010 RMB) as mentioned by Hong Kong watchdog China Labour Bulletin, which oversees the rights of workers in Mainland China. The report came from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, P.R.C. (MOHRSS).
With new skills bring new aspirations
It’s not surprising to see many Chinese workers take night classes to learn a new skill or a new language, resulting in becoming chief earners in their families. They’ve also challenged long running traditions of marrying young and persuaded their younger siblings to stay in school. Hearing English on the streets is more common now than it was ten years ago in major cities such as is the case in Guangzhou. But with all this work to better themselves professionally do they feel like they lack spiritual betterment? What do they want to do beyond work? Where do they want to go?
When I asked my friends these questions mystery and history seemed to be the common theme. They spoke of wanting to go to Scandinavia because for them there was something mysterious and mystical about them. Others spoke of wanting to go to England, Greece and Italy and immerse themselves in these countries rich histories. A couple even wanted to go to the North Pole due to its connection to the ancient book Shanhaijin (山海经) and wanting to see the Aurora Borealis embellishing the sky.
Most of those asked were young professionals in their 20s and early 30s. Regardless of the economic situation most said they hoped to take a couple of months to a year off to travel. Only one said they just wanted a holiday. Well many may not follow the trend of “naked resignation,” the change is attitude to what is and isn’t acceptable for twentysomethings to do with their life is interesting.
Lifestyle magazine GQ China even featured a questionnaire regarding one’s mental wellness and symptoms of the average worker, such as their levels of stress and their focus at work. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer leads you to another sets of questions. It then featured an article helping those that had resigned with no next job and the desire to travel, by giving them tips on what gear to buy, clothing to wear, planning an itinerary, and suggesting airlines to use, alongside profiles on people who had gone off on a “gap year.”
As the idea of “naked resignation” grows in popularity it is becoming clear that China’s new workforce has a very different idea about what they want from their life. How will China’s bosses respond?
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Keywords: Naked Resignation China’s workforce; labour force; quitting jobs; average Chinese worker
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working full time is awful. Good for them not getting stuck in something that they don't even want to do and would no doubt be forced to work long hours in... Only down side is that they may not be able to get the latest and greatest thing that isn't really needed
Mar 24, 2014 19:58 Report Abuse
A person either works for themselves by having highly sought after skills for leverage, they are their own boss, or they slave away for another pence in someone else's pocket. Unfortunately in China (and increasingly the USA too), there are very few skills that give you real leverage. It's kind of pathetic when my friend's grandmother makes more housekeeping than he does as an electrical engineer. Of course, that's anecdotal and there are reasons why she is so successful (her generation works harder, she is a master negotiator, she lives in an area with a lot of wealthy people). However, I feel that this is a prime example of what's happening in China. If he quit his job, they could replace him in a matter of hours. He's more expendable than a blonde 25 year old actress in Hollywood. As Expatlife26 wrote in his essay, when your job doesn't care about performance, has no opportunity for promotion or wage increase, and requires only a warm body and broken spirit, then it is time to run from that job as fast as you can. To the naked resigners I say good for you, you got out of the pit. Now stop waiting for that perfect job that doesn't exist and start your own business. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I would take running my own barbecue stand at night over sitting in a cube for 12 hours 7days a week any day...
Mar 24, 2014 14:15 Report Abuse
While many young Chinese professionals might resign their jobs to travel, their options would be greatly limited by the fact that many destinations outside of China will refuse to grant them visa's due to their financial status. Single young Chinese would face greater scrutiny from prospective destination countries purely by the fact that they will be deemed to have no ties to returning home, and hence a greater risk. While i would agree the pressure on them in work is unhealthy, they should be realistic about what their travel options are.
Mar 24, 2014 07:40 Report Abuse
Definitely. A friend of mine (fellow american) tried to take his Chinese girlfriend to visit his parents, complete with documentation that they'd be together for 2+ years and she was denied a visa because her family couldn't show a certain amount of cash in the bank. Talking with friends working at the US consulate, what they look for when issuing travel visas are "ties to China" like a good job, property etc. Basically they want to see someone who has more incentive to stay in China than to just try and hang out in the West as an illegal immigrant. Even though HE had a good job in China and they had every intention of a 10 day trip, it wasn't good enough to get a visa for her.
Mar 24, 2014 11:33 Report Abuse