China job ad sparks social media outcry over ‘middle-age’ unemployment

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 1:24 AM

By Bernard Orr

BEIJING (Reuters) – A job advertisement in China seeking cashiers aged 18 to 30 at a grocery store has ignited debate on social media about the perils of “middle-age unemployment”, amid a scramble to fill jobs across age groups and energise a sluggish economy.

With tens of millions of college graduates set to join the workforce in the next few years, the nation of 1.4 billion is grappling with the threat of high youth unemployment, but people over 30 also face unrelenting pressure in finding jobs.

“It’s not easy,” said a commenter in the city of Ningbo in the eastern province of Zhejiang, posting on the Weibo social media platform, alongside a picture of a supermarket ad seeking the cashiers aged between 18 and 30.

“Do you think it is easy to find a job now?”

The anguished posting drew more than 140 million views and prompted 41,000 discussions, including many emotional comments.

“Was it difficult to find a job when you were over 35 before?” asked another Weibo user, with an accompanying emoji icon representing bitterness.

“Now it becomes 30 years old. At the same time, the retirement age has to be delayed. So what are you going to do in between?”

State media have said China plans to raise the retirement age in phases as the population ages rapidly.

That threshold ranks among the world’s lowest, at 60 for men, and younger still for women, who may retire at 55 from white-collar jobs, but 50 if working in factories.

But China has yet to announce a change in its retirement age or specific national strategies to ensure longer employment.

Last year state media targeted employers for “discriminatory” hiring practices, including seeking younger and cheaper workers, in what became widely referred to as the “Curse of 35”.

“I’m 29,” wrote one commenter on the X-like Weibo. “I’ve been laid off three times since I graduated. Now, no one has replied to my resume even if I (write) I am unmarried and do not have a child.”

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)