China’s Gen-Zers Are Slacking Off, Refusing To Work Overtime And Playing On Their Phones In Protest Of Long Hours And Low Pay

3 min readJan 7, 2021


America is known for its compulsive work ethic. Some would even say it’s an obsession. Pre-Covid-19, Americans would brag about their long hours worked. Many eschewed taking vacations or days off to show how important their jobs are. The pandemic, forcing people to stay home and making everyone aware of the fragility of life, has made the U.S. think more about the importance of balance between work and life.

By many reports, China seems to have managed its Covid-19-related problems and returned to some sort of normalcy. According to theSouth China Morning Post, the Chinese, generally speaking, are as driven as Americans. However, there is one growing exception-Gen-Z.

Chinese Gen-Zers-young adults born between 1996 and 2010-comprise roughly 15% of the country’s population. Given their size, it’s expected that this group will leave an indelible mark on the economy, job market and society. Despite the disease, China’s Gen-Z grew up in the midst of one of the strongest and fastest-growing economies in modern history.

Gen-Z in China is chafing at the country’s traditional work culture. The young-adult workers have adopted a philosophy called “touching fish.” This term is drawn from the old Chinese proverb, “muddy waters make it easy to catch fish,’’ which loosely means taking advantage of a crisis to chase personal gain.

Multibillionaire Jack Ma epitomized the culture of hard work and working long hours. Ma is known for pushing his people, especially in the early days of building Alibaba and his tech empire, to follow a “996” work schedule. Ma believed that working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week was one of the ways to quickly scale his business and take on the major U.S. tech giants.

The younger generation of workers is not aboard with Ma’s precepts. As reported by the South China Morning Post, they’re known to “slack off by refusing to work overtime, delivering medium-quality work, going to the toilet frequently and staying there for a long time, playing with their mobile phones or reading novels at work.”

This is their way of pushing back on the rigid, staid corporate culture that demands long hours without pay that is commensurate with their efforts. Working at a slower pace is a form of protest. It’s their way of saying, “We don’t think that we’re being treated fairly.” Similar to the complaints of both Millennials and Gen-Z in the U.S., the Chinese Gen-Zers contend that their meager earnings won’t afford them a house or a financially comfortable life.

As opposed to prior generations, the Chinese youths are not buying into the hustle culture and putting a premium on having a well-rounded lifestyle. While older generations would stick with a company and job for a long time, Gen-Zers, similar to U.S. Millennials, freely quit or switch jobs if they feel unappreciated or dissatisfied with the role. They’d ask for personal days off from work, seek opportunities that offer intrinsic meaning and pursue interesting work.

With all of the tension between the U.S. and China lately, it’s interesting to see that the younger generations of both countries share a lot in common.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Originally published at



WeCruitr is a revolutionary start-up social media site that connects Job Seekers with top Recruiters. Follow us to get the latest Career Advice articles!