In addition to current trends, such as jobs in the funeral industry becoming popular or increasing unemployment associated with shattered dreams and aspirations, young adult Chinese tend to eschew factory jobs that drive the nation’s economy.

As Reuters reported on November 21, to millions of young adult Chinese, factory work is not considered a way out of poverty. Instead, it’s a low paying job, with long hours of drudgery, and risks of injury. Those incidents are no longer worth their suffering and sacrifice.

Julian Zhu used to do an exhausting job in a textile mill in southern Guangdong province. Zhu, 32, now works in a supermarket in Shenzhen selling and shipping milk formula.

Recalling his time working on the production lines some years ago, Zhu said, “After a while that work makes your mind numb.” He added, “I couldn’t stand the repetition.”

Zhu and other Chinese in their 20s and 30s are refusing to work in factories, adding to a deepening labor shortage that is hurting manufacturers in China.

According to a CIIC Consulting report, more than 80% of Chinese manufacturers have experienced labor shortages this year. This figure ranges from hundreds to thousands of workers, or 10% to 30% of their workforce. China’s Ministry of Education forecasts that a shortage of manufacturing workers will be nearly 30 million by 2025.

On paper, there is no labor shortage since around 18% of Chinese aged 16-24 are jobless. Additionally, nearly 11 million graduates joined the labor market this year alone, yet the job market is very subdued.

For Zhu, doing sales and deliveries has brought him many more benefits than working at grinding factory tasks. His salary is about 10,000 yuan ($1,400), doubling what he would earn in a factory. More importantly, he feels free.

Zhu said, “It’s hard work. It’s dangerous on the busy roads, in the wind and rain, but for younger people, it’s much better than factories.” He added,  “You feel free.”

Klaus Zenkel, a chairman of The European Chamber of Commerce in South China, said, “If you are young it’s much easier to do this job, climbing up the ladder, doing some machinery work, handling+ tools, and so on, but most of our installers are aged 50 to 60.”

He added, “Sooner or later we need to get more young people, but it’s very difficult. Applicants will have a quick look and say ‘no, thank you, that’s not for me’.”

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