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Selasa, 24 Agustus 2010

The Working Chinese Girl



Abstract:

In this paper I would like to explore the world of young Chinese women competing in a modern China for jobs and the fulfillment of the ambitions they left University with but by and large feel unfulfilled. In China today more and more young women are leaving University and seeking their first job. They are full of hope that they will find a good job that pays well and can give them the expectation of promotion and future prosperity. However in the harsh economic world of 2009, when most countries are in financial crisis and the Chinese government is thrusting money into the banking system to save a downward export market, things are not as rosy for these girls as it was five years ago during the capitalist explosion of wealth in China.

Introduction:

When you ask most Chinese girls in their last year of University what they want to do they all give a similar stock answer. "I want to work of an International company in a executive position where I can earn good money and have prospects for the future" When then asked why this is their goal you get a supplementary reply, I need to think about my future as I will one day need to support my family - under the one baby policy in China - I am obligated to look after my parents when they get old as the state currently does not provide for Chinese senior citizens." Then you ask the next question, are there enough jobs for all the girls who are looking for the same things, they answer, "fate is our guide, we will work hard and hope that our ambitions will come to pass."

The above shows the wildly optimistic approach many of these girls have in their thought processes and are not easily persuaded that this may be a rosy view of the chances they face in a China in an export decline where taxes are supporting Banks who borrowed widely and unwisely in the USA and home markets. Where International companies are shedding staff and considering moves to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand to take advantage of the cheaper labour and lower costs as China becomes a world economic player and prices rise as domestic demand does not support many of the high-tech and consumer led products for sale.

Of course in this new climate the supply of new jobs has declined to an all time low for companies and as staff leave they are not being replaced. The work simply being shared amongst the ones who stay. This in turn is causing enormous pressure on young staff that often break down and leaves to return jobless to their families. At many work fairs held around China only 2,000 jobs may be on offer with over 30,000 students crowding the halls offering poor quality resumes in the hope of a job when they graduate. International companies have learned that while Chinese students have a vast amount of knowledge through memory learning (rote) they have little insight into the subjects they learn and certainly no practical applications or critical thinking skills. So most also realise that additional on job training in China adds additional costs that in the present climate they cannot afford.

All this leads to an unemployability of Chinese students that International companies recognise as a problem. It is also one of the reasons Chinese university degrees are not recognised by most Western countries as valid. Two reasons are behind this, the first is the lack of external marking and assessment in China - too easy to cheat your way through the system and the second is corruption, fathers paying for grades to be changed, examinations to be fixed and so the actual degree paper becomes worthless in many countries eyes. This is also a shame, as a University Professor in China I know the average student here works extremely hard and long hours. Given proper teaching and support they can flourish just as much as any Western student if not better.

They after all, under the one baby policy, have more pressure to do well and become successful to support aging parents in the future. Older parents also get sick and with no free medical support in China, many either go without treatment or pay huge sums to hospitals for what are often poor quality services. A young woman thinking about all these problems for the future wants to study hard and make sure she can support them.

Another solution to family support is of course a good marriage, to the good boy, from the good family, with the good job and the good prospects. Plenty of boys to marry in China but few who live up to such high expectations that these single girls are looking for. A third and sad solution for some is suicide - China has the highest suicide rate amongst young women in the world!

Once in the workplace many of the girls find the work either extremely boring or they have an over-load of tasks that they find hard to complete. This leads to stress either way - they often contemplate leaving within a short time, but the family factors keep them in place. Employers know the pressures of family very well and exploit these feelings to the maximum by over-working staff, forcing late working hours and little real reward in terms of income and benefits, however always the promise that tomorrow will be better if they continue to work hard. This situation in a communist country is quite laughable if it were not so tragic for the young working girls.

In an ideology of Socialist Marxist ideals China has moved a long way from this thinking today. No cadres now sharing the spoils of hard work, no share of the profits from their hard earned labour. No they have discovered Western capitalism at its worse. In the West laws were passed to protect workers rights (mainly through past Union activities) enabling them redress under the law against employers who exploit the worker. However in China even if such laws exist the natural instinct to obey your boss and do as you are told are so strong that not a single worker would even think about legal redress for unfair working practices.

Examples: All based in Shanghai

Dolly 25 - Working for a Taiwanese company. Two years as a project manager, no promotion as only Taiwan staff can be promoted in China, even if you become a team leader it is unofficial and not paid for in your contract. Over a third of the staff have left due to the economic turndown, existing staff now working on average a 14 hour day to fulfil obligations to clients. Family has health problems and she fears for her ability to support them unless she changes her job or gains more education.

Betty 24 - Working for a Hong Kong bank. Three years as a customer support role. Promotion offered as a sideways move but in fact less initial income. Some training is deducted from income as not directly seen as applicable to the banks welfare. Wants to leave but cannot - her family rely on her income to support two retired parents. No boyfriend as with her low income and high cost of living in Shanghai she cannot afford to go out. Searching for a husband on the internet most evenings is her chief occupation at home.

Rachel 32 - Working for an International Art firm. Arranges exhibitions and marketing to potential supporters. Same pay now as five years ago - no prospects of a pay rise in the future. Wants to marry an American to get away from her boring poor life.

Sharon: Working for a hotel group. Customer sales and liaison. There were five girls in the sales department but today just herself and the sales manager. She feels with the amount of new hotels being built daily in Shanghai she should move to increase her pay and security. Foreign boyfriend who does not want a commitment to marriage.

Sonia: Working for a Japanese company. Design and marketing. She was very happy with her work but found the money was very low compared to similar jobs she sees advertised however because she has very nice work colleagues and a happy atmosphere in the company she decides for now to stay. She gets to travel in her work and at first enjoyed this but now realises that business travel is actually quite boring and repetitive in nature. Long trips, same hotels rooms, same customers.

Insight:

In each of the examples above the girls were asked how they felt their real experiences of work compared to their expectations on leaving university. They all agreed they have been greatly disappointed by the work experience. They also thought they worked much longer hours than Western people do (14 - 16 hour days are normal) who work a 9 to 5 type arrangements. Although part of the culture in China is you do not leave the office before you boss. So many sit on computers after their contractual hours and play computer games or chat on line to friends. We call this QQ time in China! It is not all work in a Chinese office in fact often they ignore work to watch movies or other such things on the net. This is in the main because they feel they deserve a break when they feel not appreciated or financially supported by the company. Although this seems to be more prevalent in Chinese owned companies that International ones.

What do women want?

When asked after at least two years working experience what do they now want. A surprising answer came from many of the girls, "a rest" Most actually wanted to quit the jobs and go home to the family. In China the family represents security and peace, so after the hassles and disappointments with employment they felt, to get away for a while and have a rest would be the best thing to do. When asked if a break at such an early time in their employment was wise in respect to the future for pay and promotion most replied, "I used to believe that fantasy but now I know the truth, no-one cares about you but your family" Almost all the girls reported absolutely no loyalty to their employer and felt that the company shows no caring attitude towards them. Although here I have only shown a few examples in fact in interviewing dozens of girls about work - this same attitude after two years of work was very common amongst them. Of course there were some exceptions, girls who loved their job and were very happy to stay and show support for the establishment but this was quite rare.

Conclusion:

It seems that for most young women in China (Shanghai in particular) they are unhappy at work and mostly wanted to leave to find a better job or simply give up and go home for a while. My own observation is that Chinese girls mature a lot later than Western women and also want marriage much earlier from starting work after university. This being the case they are more in a hurry to succeed and have little patience in going through a maturing process at work to learn the job and seek timely promotions. This is because the pressure of obligation to the parents and the early pursuit of a marriage partner dominate their thinking most of the time. They see little sense in dedication to a career, at the expense of personal relationships, that many in the West recognise as a sacrifice in order to succeed as women in the workplace.

While I am not advocating that women have to be so single minded the evidence seems to show that successful people are more likely to have transient relationships and higher rates of divorce than working class equivalents. Of course another factor is over-education, just like in many countries China is making it easier and easier to get a university place. This means a lowering of standards (as seen in the UK) where professors have to cope with students who clearly do not have the ability to attend advanced courses. The result being thousands of graduates who expect good jobs in a shrinking economy and with little real talent to offer.

Last Word:

This paper may see a little gloomy in content and I recognise that it is. Of course many of the girls who talked about their careers and work were in fact unhappy and it is hard to find happy workers who feel the need to express that feeling to others. So while I recognise a certain bias in the paper I hope that is will at least act as a warning beacon to girls to perhaps lower their expectations of work and prepare for a more realistic view of life's struggle.

Dr. Stephen Myler is from Leicester in England, an industrial town in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. He holds a B.Sc (Honours) in Psychology from the UK's Open University the largest in the UK; he also has an M.Sc and Ph.D in Psychology from Knightsbridge University in Denmark. In addition to this Stephen holds many diplomas and awards in a variety of academic areas including journalism, finance, teaching and advanced therapy for mental health. Stephen has as a Professor of Psychology many years teaching experience in colleges and universities in England and China to post 16 young adults, instructing in psychology, sociology, English, marketing and business.

He has been fortunate to travel extensively from Australia to Africa to the United Sates, South America, Borneo, most of Europe and Russia. Stephen's favourite hobby is the study of primates and likes to play badminton. He believes that students who enjoy classes with humour and enthusiasm from the teacher always come back eager to learn more.

 
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