Chinese Workers Confront the Curse of 35

In the past six months, he has sent his résumé to more than 300 companies and landed 10 interviews with no offer. Now he is looking for jobs that pay 20 to 30 percent less. He also started looking in other cities near Shanghai.

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

Cici Zhang is 32 and has already been told by employers that she’s too old. She showed a screenshot of a job posting at a company that sells maternity products, with the age limit set below 32. One of her former supervisors told her that he could replace her with a young graduate after three months of training.

Chinese companies like to chase the hottest trend instead of perfecting what they already have, she said. So experience and expertise aren’t the qualities they value most.‌

As a woman, Ms. Zhang faces added layers of discrimination. Since she was 25, she has fielded questions from employers about when she planned to have children. When she answered that she and her husband had no such plans, she would be asked what their parents thought of their decision.

After being laid off in September, Ms. Zhang, a marketing professional, messaged more than 3,000 companies, sent her résumé to more than 300 and landed fewer than 10 interviews. Last month, she finally got a job offer from a small company.

She accepted the job, feeling no excitement or happiness about it.

“I used to have expectations. I wanted promotions, pay raises and a better life,” she said. “Now I have none. I just want to survive.”

She and her husband feel they can’t afford to have children. They have a mortgage and barely scraped by when she was out of work, while worrying that he, too, could lose his job.


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