Chinese Workers Confront the Curse of 35

At 35, he feels young. But for society, he says, 35 is like a “plague.”

Cici Zhang is 32 years old and is already considered too old by her employer. She showed a screenshot of a job posting for a company that sells maternity products. Her age limit is set for her to be under 32. One of her former bosses told her they could replace her with a young graduate after her three months of training.

Chinese companies prefer to chase the hottest trends instead of perfecting what they already have, she said. Experience and expertise are therefore not the qualities they value most.

As a woman, Ms. Zhang faces even more discrimination. Since she was 25, she’s been answering questions from her employer about when she plans to have children. When she replies that she and her husband have no such plans, her parents will be asked what they think of their decision.

After being laid off in September, Zhang, a marketing expert, sent messages to more than 3,000 companies and sent resumes to more than 300, but managed to get interviews with fewer than 10 companies. Last month, she finally got a job offer from a small business.

She accepted the job without feeling any excitement or joy about it.

“I used to have expectations. I wanted a promotion, a raise and a better life,” she said. “Right now I have nothing. I just want to survive.”

She and her husband feel they cannot afford to have children. She both had a mortgage and barely lived while she was unemployed, but she worried he might lose her job too.

They are so insecure that they even question whether it is fair to have children. Ms. Zhang quoted a popular internet adage, “If the birth of a child means inheriting one’s hardships, panic and poverty, then not having a child is also a form of kindness.”

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