Are today’s Chinese youth truly prone to ‘lying flat’? The popular phrase in China applies to those who prefer to take the backseat in their careers in favor of more laid-back lifestyles. For years, many believed the general assumption. New research gainsays this, however.
The proof lies in a paper recently published by Fudan University’s Center for Communication and State Governance Research in partnership with two other public policy research entities. Perceptions of major social issues among young Chinese netizens are compiled in said report.
With a 4,000-strong sample size, the algorithm-driven study targeted Weibo users born between 1990 and 2005 and closely examined content posted between 2009 and 2021. Researchers split the findings on young netizens’ social attitudes into three sections: Economic life, marriage and birth, and cultural values.
No lying flat and no slacking off 不躺平，不摸鱼 – metro banners in Shenzhen try to inspire high tech park commuters pic.twitter.com/rGpaTXztIs— Rita Liao (@ritacyliao) October 8, 2021
No lying flat and no slacking off 不躺平，不摸鱼 – metro banners in Shenzhen try to inspire high tech park commuters pic.twitter.com/rGpaTXztIs
— Rita Liao (@ritacyliao) October 8, 2021
One of the study’s final conclusions reads: “The ‘lying flat’ generation isn’t as populous as many believe, and a hardworking attitude is still the leitmotif.”
According to the report, young netizens are outspoken about their right to ‘lie flat’ but rarely adopt the lifestyle. In fact, the act of making their views heard is mostly cathartic, with few translating their tenets into action.
Some 75% of the test subjects were determined to have hardworking attitudes, fewer than 10% practiced ‘lying flat,’ and the remaining percentage straddled the fence.
The ‘lying flat’ phenomenon came about to challenge China’s intense ‘996’ work culture, which has been blamed for a whole string of negative effects, from extreme exhaustion and collapses to suicide.
The text reads, “neither capable of competing hard nor capable of lying fully flat.” Image via Weibo
Moving forward, ‘45 degree life’ (45度人生) is a neologism that we expect to see more of. The expression, which means to oscillate between grinding away and lying flat, captures the mindset of the majority. Many Weibo users resonate with this ‘gray area.’ After all, not everyone can afford to entirely abandon work or spend all their time loafing around.
Unsurprisingly, the research names the civil service industry as an ideal career path for today’s youth who crave a combination of stability, relatively low pressure, and decent compensation.
The report has also pointed out that young Chinese netizens are bent on financial independence and try to distance themselves from kenlao (啃老, ‘living off one’s parents’) and NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).
Cover image via Depositphotos
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