In most societies, individuals in their 30s are expected to have achieved a certain level of stability in their personal and professional lives. This decade is often seen as a period of growth and self-discovery, while the 30s are regarded as a time of relative stability. However, in China, an unusual and eerie phenomenon has been gripping China's workforce and stirring up concerns among employees and employers alike – the 'Curse of 35.'
The Curse of 35 refers to a situation in which Chinese organisations show a preference for younger employees and are hesitant to hire individuals above the age of 35. This trend can be attributed to China's post-pandemic economic landscape, as reported by various outlets. Although the full extent and veracity of this curse are yet to be determined, age discrimination is not illegal in the country, and there are indications that it is increasing over time.
Curse of 35 In China
The reason behind this so-called curse is deeply rooted in cultural and societal norms in China. As per traditional Chinese beliefs, the age of 35 marks a crucial turning point in one's life. At this age, individuals are believed to enter a phase of reassessment and reflection on their life's accomplishments and failures, both personally and professionally.
One of the main factors behind this curse is the cost factor. Companies often opt to hire younger individuals as they are perceived as being "less expensive" than their older, more experienced counterparts and are more dynamic, adaptable, and tech-savvy, which aligns better with the fast-paced, modern work environment.
Unfortunately, this discriminatory practice not only affects employees' professional lives but also impacts their personal lives, including decisions related to marriage and starting a family. The New York Times has reported that individuals have postponed major life choices due to financial constraints resulting from the curse.
The implications of this ominous phenomenon are profound and far-reaching. Employees who find themselves afflicted by the Curse of 35 experience heightened stress, anxiety, and financial instability, leading to decreased job satisfaction and overall well-being. This can also trigger a negative impact on family life and social relationships.
The consequences of the Curse of 35 can be seen in the declining number of marriage registrations in China between 2021 and 2022. During this period, the country experienced a steady decline of up to 10.5 percent, marking the lowest figure since the government began publishing data in 1986. These statistics indicate the significant impact that this curse has had on the social fabric of Chinese society.
On a broader scale, this curse might hinder economic growth and innovation, as the loss of skilled workers and their knowledge and experience could be detrimental to the nation's progress. Moreover, the increasing number of individuals in their 30s and 40s without stable jobs could place additional strain on social welfare systems, exacerbating existing challenges in social security and pension schemes.
Social media platforms have become a space where discussions surrounding the Curse of 35 have gained traction. Viral posts have captured the frustration of many Chinese workers. One such post reads, "Too old to work at 35 and too young to retire at 60. Stay away from homeownership, marriage, children, car ownership, traffic and drugs, and you’ll own happiness, freedom and time."
The "Curse of 35" casts an exhausting shadow over middle-aged people in China, leaving them with a bleak future. With age discrimination, limited job opportunities, and the pressures of societal expectations, escaping this curse becomes a daunting task.
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