Home Internet China’s ‘young seniors’ and ‘elderly youths’ mingle in internet slang as users poke fun at rat race

China’s ‘young seniors’ and ‘elderly youths’ mingle in internet slang as users poke fun at rat race

Discussion of the phrase sprouted last week when Ma Jiantang, former party secretary of the Development Research Center of the State Council, stated at a forum that individuals aged 60 to 70 should be regarded as “young seniors” because of their good health and continued desire to work.

It reflects China’s lopsided demographic landscape, as the country’s dwindling birth rate and growing elderly population – a consequence of the decades-long imposition of a one-child limit – have exacerbated age imbalances and increased strain on the pension pool.

Numerous experts have called for an increase in the retirement age to alleviate insolvency problems with the pension system and mitigate future labour shortages.


The reasons behind China’s high youth unemployment rate

The reasons behind China’s high youth unemployment rate

2. Elderly youth/unemployable youth

Young adults of an older age, usually those aged 35 and above.

In 2017, during the rapid expansion of the Chinese internet, numerous firms implemented lay-offs targeting employees aged 35 and above, citing concerns that individuals in this age group lacked innovative drive and energy compared to their younger counterparts, despite receiving higher salaries.

As the pandemic worsened the job situation, companies in other sectors began to sack 35-year-old employees or outright reject applicants aged over 35 – over 30 in some cases – to trim labour costs.

This phrase evolved out of internet users’ replies to “Young seniors” and drew nearly 80 million views on Sina Weibo, China’s premier microblogging platform. Users expressed dissatisfaction with Ma’s remarks, saying they did not match the reality of many workplaces where those older than 35 are having a hard time securing employment.

3. Digital nomad

Individuals who have the flexibility to work remotely via the internet, enabling them to travel freely while staying employed.

The number of digital nomads has expanded rapidly since 2020, as pandemic-induced work from home policies allowed many to pull up roots and log in from anywhere.

As of the end of last year, the number of actual or potential digital nomads in China was estimated as between 70 million and 100 million in an April research report, with those born between 1981 and 2009 accounting for 58 per cent of the total.

They are mainly bloggers, illustrators, programmers and remote translators, according to a report issued by Renmin Luntan, the journal of central government mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Their major travel destinations are low-cost areas of the country like Lijiang in Yunnan province or Anji in Zhejiang province, both of which are known for their abundant natural scenery.

4. Partially retired

Young people using the interest accrued from savings to cover their daily expenses and start retirement early.

The use of “retired” reflects a lifestyle choice, rather than a total abandonment of the labour market. They deposit a set sum into banks or financial management tools while minimising their living expenses.

This enables them to cover basic necessities using interest, even if it amounts to a sum as tiny as 30 yuan (US$4).


Why so many young Chinese choose to be ‘full-time children’ who work for their parents

Why so many young Chinese choose to be ‘full-time children’ who work for their parents

5. Full-time children

Jobless young adults living with their parents’ financial support – an approach seen as a temporary solution to a tough job market with few opportunities, low wages and long hours.

In April, the youth unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16 and 24 stood at 14.7 per cent, and unemployment for those aged 25 to 29 stood at 7.1 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The figure had peaked at 21.3 per cent in June 2023, before being temporarily suspended to allow time for China’s labour force statistics to be “further improved and optimised”.



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