White collars feel blue

By Jeff Pan (Chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2007-02-09 17:18

At the forefront of those benefiting from China's rapid economic growth, the white collars are supposed to be happy. In fact, many are downright blue.

Their salaries are going up, but they aren't getting promoted. They are feeling less happy, and their personal lives are deteriorating.

According to a recent study jointly conducted by CCTV and Zhaopin.com, more than 60% of Chinese white collars are unhappy with their lives and careers, and surprisingly, those who feel more unhappy are from economically advanced areas like Shanghai and Beijing. It seems earning more money does not necessarily make people happy, and more often than not, the money comes at the price of sacrificing one's personal life.

Literary Study

"The so-called 'white collars' are nothing more than migrant workers with college degrees," said Winnie Wang, a young employee working with a major PR company in Shanghai. The term "white collar" usually refers to people who spend most of their time facing computers in offices in China. Being a white collar usually means making a living with brainpower, not physical strength. They are not factory workers or farmers, yet they are not bosses, either. 

However, the term 'white collar,' once something to be proud of, is losing its power to impress.

"A lot of my classmates working in the four major accounting firms in the CBD area in Beijing do not like to be called 'white collars,'" said Jessie Tao, who graduated from the China University of Politics and Law more than two years ago, "because being called a 'white collar' actually gives you a label, which sometimes denotes monotony and oppression."


Even if the job is run-of-the-mill, white collars typically feel they are under a lot of pressure. "I am fed up with the routine," said Rachel Wang, who just quit her third job at an import and export company in Shanghai. "The boss was always picking on me. I didn't see a future in that job, and I was not happy, so I quit."

Stress is a major factor that forces a lot of young white collars to quit their jobs. The heavy workload usually leaves the white collars very little time to enjoy themselves, and it's becoming trendy for a lot of people to exit the job, and then travel for a few months before finding a new one.

Related readings:
 Are you Happy? (China Daily forum post)
 Bulk of white collars suffer year-end blues
 The high price of love

Love is in the air... or is it?

The latest issue of the New Weekly carried the cover story, "2006 China Love Report" detailing the problems many white collars face in finding romance. The article points to Windows Live Messenger signatures as a sentiment barometer of white collars, among which IM software use is immensely popular.

"I know how to live, but don't know how to fall in love," a woman working in CBD in Beijing wrote as her messenger signature. . She says this line resonates among her friends on IM.

Even for those who are in relationships, the increase in living expenses, especially rapidly growing house prices, give many couples serious headaches.


When asked whether they thought the jobs they held help others in a poll on the Chinadaily.com.cn forum, many responded 'no' or 'not sure'. Many considered a job as just a way to make a living. When asked what bothered them most, many answered 'not being sure what to do in the future'.

The term "white collar" itself might become outdated, or appropriated to something else in a few years l if the problems surrounding the white-collar lifestyle remain unsolved, just as the word "comrade" is now used to refer to gay people.

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