In 2022, the first group of Chinese born after 2000 will graduate from university and go to do labor work. They contrast with the post-1980s generation being labeled “docile” and the post-1990 generation being labeled “lazy.”

Gen Z workers in China refuse to work overtime and are even willing to sue the company if pressed.

The culture of starting work at 9 a.m. and working through to 9 p.m. 6 days a week is not on, says Gen Z as they maneuver for better pay and working conditions.

According to the Sixth Tone, Meng Ling (pseudonym) started her first job after graduating college. There she encountered a problem that generations of Chinese workers have faced‚—shortchanged wages. 

During the interview, the 22-year-old girl and the company in Shenzhen reached an agreement on salary and responsibilities. But when it was time to receive her first salary, Meng discovered that the amount she received was several thousand yuan less than the agreed salary. (About 7 yuan equals $1)

Chinese private companies have long been known for enforcing a culture of fatigue. Workers often complain about rigid office hierarchies, compulsory overtime, and unfair pay cuts.

She said, “My manager said that I wasn’t skilled enough to make that much, even though I was doing everything we discussed in the interview.”

Meng did not compromise. She hired a lawyer, providing evidence that the company breached the contract. As a result, she won the case and received $2,200 in compensation.

Meng Ling shared her win on social media with the hashtag # post-’00s rectifying the workplace.

The keyword # post-’00s rectifying the workplace started appearing on Chinese social media in the first half of 2022 and has caused a stir in Chinese society in recent months.

This hashtag attracted more than 12 million views on Weibo. Many Gen Zs use this hashtag to share their workplace “battles.” They also post screenshots of arguments with their bosses, lawsuits against the company, and discussions about refusing overtime without pay.

In this way, people of this generation hope they will inspire others.

Talking about one of the reasons for the rise of Generation Z, 22-year-old Maggie said that it’s precisely the post-’00s’ comfortable backgrounds that give them the ability to push back against unfair practices.

She said, “Previous generations had to work to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. You’d take any job you could in that situation. But my generation has more support—there are more jobs and our parents are in a better situation to assist us. We can challenge work cultures and leave jobs because of this.”

Professor Wang Kan at the China Institute of Industrial Relations also expressed a similar opinion.

He tells Sixth Tone, “As the economy improved, pensions increased and the risk of falling into extreme poverty reduced.”

Therefore, Chinese parents no longer pressure their children to earn money but only want them to live happily.

In previous eras, Chinese workers often boasted of their endurance at work. But this concept has changed. Young people today have yet to have an immediate need to earn money.

According to a 2022 report, employees born after 2000 tend to value a job opportunity that gives them a sense of self-worth.

Many questioned whether this movement was effective and brought change. For example, the former generation X and Y workers that Gen Z accuses of being easygoing used to be “rebels.”

Professor Wang said that the generations before Z focused more on labor rights and working conditions. This new generation challenges hierarchies and strange work cultures and puts more value on self-worth.

Wang added that another difference is that the post-’00s generation transmits information through online platforms and can attract a large amount of public attention and support. Meanwhile, the previous generation struggled by striking and protesting, which was rarely reported.

Wang also predicts that Gen Z will no longer focus on self-worth when they get older or get married.

However, Gen Z will still be able to change the harsh work culture in China.

According to the Sixth Tone, in early 2022, after surveying employees and getting 90% approval, a Chinese travel company implemented a combined work plan, allowing employees to work from home.

Wang said, “Before 2019, employee participation was not as active or institutionalized as it is now. Now, all state-owned enterprises have employee participation mechanisms … and large companies are required to establish employee participation systems.”

He adds, “This has all come from pressure from the younger employees. Businesses know that if they don’t listen to their employees, productivity will fall, and they’ll eventually lose their competitive advantage.”

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.