'Curse of 35': China's state media takes aim at ageist hiring policies

BEIJING — Chinese state media on Thursday (July 6) took aim at employers’ discriminatory hiring practises, including a trend among companies seeking younger and cheaper workers that has become widely known as the “Curse of 35”.

The Workers Daily newspaper has been at the forefront of a media campaign to draw attention to the iniquities of a labour market shaped by high youth unemployment, an ageing population and a slowing economy.

Job seekers should not be discriminated against for their age, gender, marital status and family planning, but it would take time to change companies attitudes, the newspaper said in an editorial headlined “To remove invisible employment barriers, we must gnaw down a ‘hard bone'”.

Back in March, the newspaper cited two studies that laid bare how workers aged 35 years or over were losing out.

One study found many job advertisements explicitly limited the age of candidates to below 35, including for civil service admissions and jobs with several local governments.

The other study, conducted by Sichuan University, found that out of 300,000 job postings, over 80 per cent in Shanghai and more 70 per cent in the southwestern city of Chengdu sought applicants under-35.

With the economy losing momentum, China’s survey-based jobless rate stayed at 5.2 per cent in May, but youth employment jumped to a record 20.8 per cent.

And with the population ageing, many people talk about the ‘curse”, believing their chances of getting a job or losing one worsen once they cross 35.

“What does the future hold? University graduates are told to be flexibly employed, employees aged over 35 are laid off and many migrant workers are extending their retirement ages,” said one netizen on China’s Twitter-like Weibo.

“If people become unemployed at the age of 35, older people can only go back to college then,” said another.

On Wednesday, a news portal for Zhejiang provincial government called for authorities, companies and individuals to work together to break the “Curse of 35” as it posted a report on its website saying that some large internet firms were laying off workers based on their age.

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