Don’t be jumpy

Is job loyalty on the wane in Chinese workplaces?


Looking for a career change?

The Chinese for job hopping is tiaocao or “jumping troughs”.

For Chinese employers it is huge headache, especially in boom cities like Beijing, Shanghai and the tech hubs of Shenzhen and Hangzhou.

But Zhejiang’s provincial government is mulling a solution – deducting “social credit” points for people who change jobs too often.

“We will soon have control measures. If an individual resigns frequently his credit will definitely be affected,” Ge Ping’an, the deputy director of Zhejiang’s Human Resources and Social Security Department, said at a recent conference.

China is currently constructing a social credit system – or rather, systems – to increase “social integrity” (for our first lengthy mention of the topic, see issue 352). No one knows what the final product will look like, given various local governments and central authorities including the central bank have all been working on their own separate systems. But some cities have already launched trial versions. One in Suzhou ranks citizens on a scale of 0-200. Everyone starts with 100 and additional points can be earned for giving blood or volunteering at a charity. Points are deducted for things such as bad driving or failure to repay loans. People with good credit scores get discounts on transport and utilities. They also get preferential treatment when registering for hospital appointments.

But the system is controversial and the central government is watching to see what kind of reception these trial versions get.

Already there has been a backlash against the Zhejiang suggestion to include job hopping in social credit metrics. “Is job hopping against the law?” asked one of the 110 million people who viewed this topic on Sina Weibo.

Officials in Zhejiang insisted it had not made a final decision on whether it would include frequent resignations in a citizen’s social credit score, telling the National Business Daily that the move was not intended to affect “normal” job hoppers but was designed to target “malicious and abusive ways of job hopping where people ask for compensation” – a phrase that could simply mean asking for more money from employers.

“The expression ‘frequent resignation’ is too vague and unscientific,” wrote the Beijing News, adding that if this new metric were to be included in the social credit system then both sides should be evaluated so that employees can also identify unreliable employers.

Yet retaining staff in China is a real challenge.

A survey by the job hunting platform Zhaopin last month found that 90% of white collar worker wanted to tiaocao. Media, internet and finance are the industries that see the greatest churn, it said. Unsatisfactory salaries were the main reason people moved on, followed by “poor development prospects”, “limited scope for promotion” and “inadequate welfare benefits”.

In August last year LinkedIn found that Chinese born after 1995 were spending an average of seven months in their first job, less than half the time of those born before 1995 – and some in this group already had a reputation for being a bit flaky.

Often resignation letters from these groups have gone viral and are held up as evidence that China’s younger generation can no longer work hard and ‘endure hardship’.

One female departee gave as her reason for quitting that the “winter was cold” and she didn’t like getting up in the morning; another, from a man, said there weren’t enough women at the company so he couldn’t find a girlfriend; another from a lady said she believed the work was making her fat.

Yet the truth is that this generation probably just has higher expectations than previous ones. They are better educated, have only known the China that emerged after the economic reform era and they have a much stronger sense of themselves as individuals – possibly as result of being only-children in many cases (thanks to the One-Child Policy). When interviewed they don’t sound like brats either. They say they want what most people want from their jobs: interesting work, a decent salary and room for personal growth.

It may also be they also want more leisure time to pursue other interests (see related article on the 996 protests on page 13).

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