Six months ago a daughter was born to young Liu; this event raised question of how to care for her. Over the last few years, he had not managed to find a position which suited him, so he had decided to stay at home. His wife had also changed jobs a number of times, with six months here and three months there, so that their monthly income totaled just five to six hundred dollars. After the baby’s birth, they spent one month at the home of one set of parents and the next in that of the other set, and so became fully dependent financially on their parents, and were quite literally eating out of their hands.
People like young Liu and young Zhang are nicknamed ‘parent-suckers’ by the Chinese media. These healthy young adults are well able to support themselves, and some have advanced degrees, yet they are still depending on their parents for their day-to-day needs. Stretching out their hands for handouts and unrepentantly ‘sponging’ on their parents, they have become part of a growing group ‘of the new unemployed’. According to research by the China Old-age Research Center, as many as 65% of all Chinese families exhibit this phenomenon of ‘the old supporting the young’; and at least 30% of all adults are supported by their parents. This is the reason for a number of increasingly serious social problems.
According to studies by Zhang Sze-ning, a research assistant at Liaoning’s Institute of Social Sciences, about 30% of adults in the city of Shenyang are reliant on their parents . “These adults ought to have become independent and be shouldering the responsibility of supporting their elders, but instead they behave like babies and continue to sponge on their parents, neglectful of their filial responsibilities!” Zhang exclaims angrily
For days Ms. Zhang has been seeking job opportunities for her daughter at Harbin Human Resource Exchange Center. Since graduating from college their precious daughter has still not found a suitable position, so she has decided to stay home and eat out of the hands of her parents. “She is more than twenty years old, but she doesn’t know how to do anything, and she has got used to giving orders. My husband and I are growing older, and we have talked it over and decided that this simply cannot continue – she must find a job and learn to work her way up from the bottom…”
These ‘parent-sucking’ young people fall into 6 categories:
Picky College graduates who have failed to find what they consider a suitable position in their professions and cannot keep make ends meet, relying instead on handouts from their parents. This group makes up about 20% of the total.
The second group have decided that their jobs are too demanding and are putting them under too much pressure and so are unsuitable for them, so they have quit on their own initiative. About 10% of the total consist of this group.
The third are aspiring entrepreneurs who have ambitions to start a business of their own yet they lack both any clear goals or the ability to realize them. After repeated failures, they are still not willing to work as employees. These people also constitute about 20% of the total.
The fourth type are the job-hoppers. The result of their multiple job-hopping is that they have ended up jobless and are forced to stay at home. These constitute about 10% of the total. The fifth group are workers who have been laid-off from their original work units. Their chances of finding another job are low, and given the opportunity, they have discovered that the new position requires their learning new skills and having to work.harder. Unwilling to adapt to this new situation, they have elected to give up looking for new positions and instead stay at home. Such people make up 10% of the total.
The last category is those who are both under-educated and unskilled and who would find working simply as a low-skilled laborer, undesirable. After a period of time, they can no longer stand the rigors of hard work or the dirty environment, and decide to return home and be supported by their parents. Their number is the highest and constitutes 30% of the total.
What are the factors producing these ‘parent-sucking’ hordes?
In a period of just over a decade, how has this conspicuous troop of ‘parent-suckers’ come about in China? A year ago in Guangzhou, a conference was organized jointly by the Publicity Group and Labor Department, among others. A questionnaire was distributed to the over 4,000 attendees, and as a result four factors were identified as the main culprits for the appearance of the ‘parent-sucking’ young people, viz.:
Lack of a positive work attitude (48%);
Personal psychological inability (24%);
Job-placement problems (23%);
Parents who have spoilt their children (5%).
Looked at objectively, there is little to be optimistic about in the current job market in China. According to the Labor Department’s 2003-2004: China Employment Report, China is faced with a peak in the availability of a naturally occurring labor force, as huge numbers of rural laborers have rushed to the cities, yet the flourishing of new technology-oriented businesses has helped to reduce the need for labor-intensive industries. These two factors have worked together to create a severe shortage of available jobs. Experts in general estimate that among the newly arrived labor force in the cities, only about half will be able to realize their desire for a job.
However, from a different perspective, many enlightened educators regard the current educational system as the main culprit, and that it should bear a major responsibility for the phenomenon’ of parent-suckers’. Today’s education system encourages young people to do well in examinations, yet it is failing to teach them personal skills. From the beginning, children are pushed to study hard to pass entrance exams for college and graduate school; however, there is a serious lack of teaching on how to learn a skill, how to do practical tasks, and how to be filial towards one’s parents. As a result, from a young age, they have been forced to take a path which eventually leads them to becoming a ‘burden on society’ and a burden on their parents. Of course, there are parents who have pampered their children and are unwilling to let go, allowing their children to stay at home and ‘sponge’ on their parents’. There are indeed quite a number of such cases.
The physiology and mentality of the ‘parent-suckers’
One jobless person,
Two parents sucked dry,
Three good meals a day,
Four flabby limbs,
Five bulging facial organs,
Six sulky relatives refusing to own them,
Seventy percent uninhibited,
Eighty percent enjoyment of life
Nine-tenths sitting without moving,
Ten out of ten for being completely useless.(it is difficult to translate this poem and retain its original flavor!)
How can these ‘adult -babies’ grow up?
In the Bible, the well-known story of the ‘Prodigal Son’ which Jesus told is recorded in chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke. It shows how a ‘parent-sucker’ – a spendthrift in and outside his own home – wastes his share of the inheritance his father has given him, and, starving, sinks to the point of hungering in a pigsty for the husks the pigs are eating. Owning nothing and with no place to go, he starts to consider what went wrong, and finds that he has sinned against Heaven. Feeling rebuked by his own conscience, he decides to return home to his father, determined not to ‘sponge’ on his parents any longer, but to work with his own hands as a servant in his home. His action wins over the heart of his aged father, who is finally comforted.
The Bible says, ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10) (error in Chinese version) and reminds us that “Honor your father and mother – which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:2) Indeed, we should consider how hard our parents have toiled for us throughout their lives, to bring us up into adulthood; and that now it is time for us to support ourselves and provide for them in our turn. Maybe we are temporarily out of work, but still we must not take this situation for granted and go back to our parents for support, rather we must do all we can to try to make a living for ourselves.
There is a common saying among Chinese people: “put the heart right; discipline the body; care for the family; rule the country; and bring peace to the world”. The only thing that can ‘right’ our hearts is the truth of the Bible, because not only does it teach us how to act, but it also provides us with the willingness to act, along with the inward power to put it into action. Dear friends, are you willing to try and learn the truths of God’s word?
The author is from Shanghai and is currently the Director of China Ministries of Sowers’ International.