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Naked resignation: Why China's young professionals embracing this new phenomenon

The difficulties faced by young people in the Chinese job market are leading them to reflect on the meaning of their lives. Am I happy in my everyday life? What am I prepared to accept in my professional life? How do we really define success?

Published: Jul 10, 2024 04:57:05 PM IST
Updated: Jul 10, 2024 04:59:20 PM IST


Young professionals in China are quitting their jobs without having another one lined up.
Image: Shutterstock Young professionals in China are quitting their jobs without having another one lined up. Image: Shutterstock

Young people in China are increasingly critical of the job market. They struggle to find jobs that match their qualifications and/or expectations. While some are scaling back their ambitions in terms of pay and job interest, others refuse to give in. They prefer to quit, even if it means ending up unemployed.

This phenomenon is known as the "naked resignation," described as leaving your job without any kind of safety net. It's a risky choice, especially in China, where 14.7% of 16-24 year-olds were unemployed in April, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, quoted by China Daily.

Yet many of China's young professionals are taking the plunge, according to Business Insider. Some explain their reasons for resigning on social networks, including the popular Weibo platform. "In the last two years, my pay has risen once every half year, but I always thought that the most important thing in my life shouldn't be work," explains one of these "naked resigners" in a post on the micromessaging site.

This testimonial, like so many others online, shows the extent to which young people in China don't have the same relationship to work as the generations that preceded them. For example, there's no question of working "996," i.e. in the office from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Although this system is contrary to Chinese labor law, it still operates in major technology companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei.

Also read: Job search advice for a tough market: Think broadly and stay flexible

A disenchanted generation

But unlike their elders, the under-30s refuse to submit to this unbearable pace of work. They aspire to having more time for themselves, especially the more highly educated. They want to travel, to learn a new language, to discover new passions and, above all, to reconnect with themselves. The difficulties faced by young people in the job market are leading them to reflect on the meaning of their lives. Am I happy in my everyday life? What am I prepared to accept in my professional life? How do we really define success? A few decades ago, people in China were so confident in the future that they didn't even ask themselves these kinds of questions.

However, things have changed since the pandemic and the end of the country's "zero Covid" policy. Economic growth in China has been undermined by deflation, falling consumer spending and a crisis in the property market. Add to this the lack of professional opportunities, and it's easy to see why young people are becoming disillusioned, and therefore more inclined to resign if they can't see the kind of future they aspire to in the world of work.

That said, not everyone can afford the luxury of "naked quitting." Leaving a job without having another one lined up can be financially perilous. As a result, young people in China are sharing money-saving tips on social networks, in the wake of the "revenge savings" movement. It now remains to be seen whether this new trend will continue to gain momentum in the country, much to the frustration of Beijing.