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Chinese white collar suffering 'job burnout'

09-26-2010 09:42 BJT

As China rockets towards its inevitable position as a financial and political giant, it has an almost vertical learning curve in bridging the gap between old work cultures and the demanding new pace. Cao Li looks at the casualty rates among China's upwardly mobile.

Chinese white collar suffering 'job burnout'

As another fat file lands on her desk, Wang Yan takes a deep breath and tries to calm her growing agitation. Fatigue shows in her eyes. As an attorney in a US law firm in Shanghai, Wang works approximately 3,000 hours a year, which translates to 375 days on the job if it is averaged out to 8-hour days. That's 10 more days than she has time for. "I can never catch up. Before one case is completed, my boss loads me with three more," says the 28-year-old from Fujian province, who graduated with a law degree from the United States. We did not use her real name as she insisted on anonymity.

"I wake up every morning, thinking about quitting."

She would complain to her friends, who are also highly educated and like her, professionals in mid-career. They belong to the generation most people believe is reaping the benefits of three decades of rapid economic growth.

But these elite members of China's new class of upwardly mobile are feeling the strain. Even as they strive to clamber up the corporate ladder, many are so drained by the effort that they are burning out.

There are more depressed professionals than it appears on the surface, and they make themselves heard on online forums and bulletin boards such as douban.com.

Here, dozens of groups have been created to talk about giving up jobs in pursuit of "freedom".

The most popular has nearly 40,000 members. Some advocate "dropping out of school and quitting your job to travel" while others proclaim, "a monster called 'job' was born to devour souls but the most important job is to find oneself."


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