Unable to find jobs, Gen Zs in China are returning home to be ‘full-time children’

Not as cushy as it sounds.

Mandy How |
July 31, 2023, 6:12 pm

For a few thousand yuan a month, these “full-time children” cook, do chores, run errands, and bring their parents to medical appointments.

Dropping out of the rat race…

CNN reports that Li, a 21-year-old high school graduate, is being paid RMB 6,000 a month to take care of her grandmother with dementia and do grocery runs for the family.

“The reason why I am at home is because I can’t bear the pressure of going to school or work,” CNN quoted her as saying.

“I don’t want to compete intensely with my peers. So I choose to ‘lie flat’ completely. […] I don’t necessarily need a higher paid job or a better life.”

Photo via Getty Images

Lying flat is a Chinese phenomenon where working adults decline to participate in the rat race and defy social pressures to overwork, instead preferring to live a “simpler” life.

…but not necessarily by choice

While some cite the stress and competition of working in big city as their reasons for the arrangement, others return home as they have no other choice: they are unable to find jobs, and have to depend on their parents financially.

Photo via Getty Images

Their “salaries” can range from RMB 2,000 (US$280) to RMB 8,000 (US$1,120) a month.

For context, RMB 5,000 (US$700) is the lower end of a middle-class wage, as defined by the Chinese government.

The unemployment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds in urban areas hit 21.3%—the highest since 2018 when numbers were first released, according to BBC.

Photo via Getty Images

Family dynamics

Discussions on being full-time children originated on Chinese social media platform Douban, but it has since swept other platforms, including Xiaohongshu.

The adult kids swap recipes, experiences, and even share their troubles online.

In the Douban community, full-time children have expressed a low sense of self-worth, with one pointing out the imbalance in power dynamics with their parents.

“My parents are understanding for the most part, but they sometimes let their dissatisfaction show, and there are times where I’m unhappy with their behaviour but am unable to stand up for myself, as I am still relying on them [financially] after all.”

Another one said, “I’m not earning my own keep and it’s a bit shameful to say so, so I don’t have much of a social life and only chat with people online.”

However, there are also full-time children who are perfectly happy doing what they are doing.

Changjiang Cloud News shares the profile of 23-year-old Yingying, who briefly worked in the media industry in Foshan before moving on to a tech company in a first-tier city.

But the fast-paced working environment left her with no breathing space.

“Whenever I run into frustrations or obstacles, my parents became my safe harbour. They eventually offered to let me go home and give me a sum every month. That’s how I started becoming a full-time daughter.”

Worried that their daughter would be anxious about not having an income, Yingying’s parents pay her RMB 4,000 (US$560) to cook and do housework.

She also helps to look after her grandparents, who tell her not to worry about finding a job, as they are happy to have her around.

In her free time, she reads, writes, and paints.

Although she’s (temporarily) out of work, Yingying feels happier and more confident than before.

“I was schooling elsewhere previously, and have never properly lived at home. This year is the happiest I’ve been in the past 10 years. I can take the time to think what it is that I really want to do.”

In the meantime, she’s preparing for a civil service exam, and has also enrolled in a barista course.

Top photo via Getty Images

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