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Quote of the Day: “Laid Off at 35, Re-employed at 60”
Quote of the Day: "Laid Off at 35, Re-employed at 60"

Quote of the Day: “Laid Off at 35, Re-employed at 60”

Chinese netizens have had a lot to say about economist Ma Jiantang’s prescription for adapting to the “era of longevity” by reclassifying workers between the ages of 60-70 as “the youthful elderly,” those between the ages of 70-80 as “the moderately elderly,” and those over the age of 80 as the “the elderly elderly.” Ma, former Party secretary of the State Council’s Development Research Center (DRC), told the attendees of a May 18 financial forum in Shenzhen that adapting to the “era of longevity” and eliminating age discrimination in the labor market would require adjusting statistical standards to recognize that “youthful elderly people” from the ages of 60-70 “remain in good health and still desire jobs and employment.” 

A Sina Finance news report on Ma’s remarks, under the hashtag #Expert Says We Must Support the Re-employment of Elderly Workers from Ages 60-70# attracted over 70 million views and over 2,000 reader comments on Weibo. Many of the comments were incredulous or withering, and before long, comment filtering had been enabled.

CDT Chinese editors archived some of the many Weibo comments pointing out socioeconomic realities such as an already difficult employment market and an inadequate social safety net and pension system that prevents older people from retiring as soon as they would like to. Some Weibo users expressed confusion about the new terminology to describe older cohorts of workers, and others even offered new linguistic suggestions or scenarios of their own:

怒放的生命811: Laid off at 35, re-employed at 60.

金刀王: Every day, a 70-year-old mother wakes up her three laid-off, unemployed children—ages 35, 38, and 42, respectively—makes them breakfast, and then she goes off to work!

卡二二二筒: Ages 70-80 is the critical decade when people make major breakthroughs [in their careers].

GDYGDYjustYY: Made redundant at 35, re-employed at 60: the new “adjusted leave-style” retirement plan.

24点01l : Yeah, sure. Get laid off at 35, stay home and rest up for 25 years, then get out there and find a job, and make your mark on society!

鱼煜穗: So instead of hiring recent college graduates, or workers over 35, you’d rather have retired people go back to work? How stupid can you get?

你是可爱www: The “youthful … elderly”? Is that even Chinese? Because I don’t recognize those word combinations.

InquilineX: Yet another demographic innovation! By that logic, people between the ages of 50-60 should be classified as “the adolescent elderly.”

顾扯淡: My reading comprehension isn’t very good. What on earth is he talking about?

日出西京: So what if young people can’t find jobs? They can just live off their parents. As long as they don’t get up to any trouble, it’ll save the government a lot of money. But when elderly people retire and collect their pensions, it puts a big burden on the government, so it’s imperative to solve the “unemployment problem” among these elderly folks.

___Goldfish丶: I’m getting ready to become “an elderly youth.”

佛系追星Melody: I think I must be sleep-deprived. Why can’t I understand Chinese characters anymore?

拆台CT: It’s hard to know how to respond to this. Employment problems don’t only afflict people over 60. Many younger people struggle to find jobs, too. Instead of trying to solve employment problems at an earlier stage, the experts have apparently decided to offer a barrage of advice to those nearing retirement age. You tell me: are they making suggestions, or just making fun of us? [Chinese]

The flood of negative online responses to Ma Jiantang’s comments about putting older people back to work reflects widespread employment insecurity, stubbornly stagnant wages, and concerns about government cost-cutting forcing workers of retirement age to remain in the labor market. Despite the existence of mandatory retirement ages, many older workers continue to perform dangerous, demanding, or low-wage jobs with minimal benefits. Some have even had to lie about their ages or use I.D. from younger family members in order to receive their wages. At the same time, unemployment rates for younger workers, including recent college graduates, remain high, despite government efforts to juke the stats and censor public discussion about the issue of unemployment.