The Noughty Nineties: The Worker

Millennials now comprise the majority of China’s migrant workers—from our cover story

It was five days before Spring Festival, but at one Beijing chain restaurant, a whole section of the staff was nowhere to be found. “The ‘post-90s’ workers have all gone home—only post-70s and post-80s ‘aunties’ will work during the holidays,” the cashier, a woman in her 30s, explained self-deprecatingly.

Not every demographic hankers after an apartment in a first-tier city or international travel. But for China’s jiulinghou workers, the “generation gap” is not just a first-world problem. “My parents are farmers…all they want for me is to learn a trade, get a 9-to-5 job in the local prefectural city, and visit home a few times a week,” scoffs Wang Qunhong, a 28-year-old Ningbo saleswoman originally from Jiangxi province. “I preferred to do something with more money and more freedom.”

The stereotypes can cut both ways. Song Yi, documentary filmmaker on Beijing’s post-90s migrant workers, says the group faces the same condemnations as middle class millennials: “Old workers say young workers can’t ‘eat bitterness.’”

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The Noughty Nineties: The Worker is a story from our issue, “The Noughty Nineties.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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