In the Zhejiang province of China, Liang’s friends threw him a party on the day he quit his banking job, praising him with the rhythmic beats of gongs and drums, reminiscent of customary wedding ceremonies.
“We’re done with this tedious job,” his buddies, who had also left their careers, declared as they placed a flower on Liang’s chest beneath a crimson banner. In addition to the bountiful spread of food on the tables, lanterns, banners, and “double happiness” signs adorned the surroundings.
Every attendee received an invitation bearing the message, “Hope you enjoy good food and drink and escape from bitterness as soon as possible.” In light of China’s gloomy economic outlook and the record-high youth unemployment rate, celebrating leaving a secure job with a respectable wage may seem unusual, especially given the scarcity of such opportunities.
However, Liang, 27, now a content creator while running a café, claimed to be happier since quitting in May, a sentiment echoed by many others in similar circumstances online. “I ended up in a mechanized, monotonous job that drained my energy,” he told CNN, adding that he felt creatively stifled while working in the bank’s public relations department. “My innovative ideas would likely have been rejected in the end.”
For privacy concerns, CNN uses a fictional name to refer to Liang. In a year when China is slowly emerging from its COVID-19 cocoon of isolation and grappling with economic and social repercussions, numerous posts about resignation parties have circulated on social media in China. The majority of participants in this trend are in their 20s and cite various reasons for leaving, such as burnout or low pay.
According to Maimai, China’s equivalent of LinkedIn, a survey conducted from January to October 2022 across various sectors found that 28% of respondents had left their jobs that year. This number doubled for those planning to quit but had not yet done so. In just two years, nearly 50 million Americans left their jobs as part of a similar phenomenon known as the Great Resignation.
In contrast to its decline in the West, this phenomenon appears to be gaining momentum in China. Disillusionment is high among young workaholics who have spent their lives competing academically and climbing the corporate ladder but found little satisfaction. Experts warn that, due to a declining birthrate and a shrinking workforce, this trend may exacerbate the nation’s growing economic problems for future generations of Chinese children.