Employment pressures affect young Chinese love lives
For 22-year-old college graduate Han Xiaolei, the upcoming Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine's Day, is doomed to be a heartbreaking one.
The native of central China's city of Wuhan just broke up with his girlfriend, who had to go back to her hometown in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region after failing to find a job in Wuhan, as Han did.
"I cried a lot on the day we broke up and it still hurts. We were together for three years, but our love had to surrender to reality," Han said.
Soaring living costs and the growing difficulty of finding a job have made it difficult for young Chinese to maintain healthy romantic relationships. Even those who are fortunate enough to find a job are often overworked and underpaid, leaving them with no time or money to sustain a relationship.
"The reality for graduates in China is that their relationships are directly affected by their employment status," said Fan Xianzuo, a professor at Central China Normal University who has been studying the post-college lives of the school's graduates.
According to a nationwide employment survey conducted by Wuhan University, about 43 percent of China's graduates may be unemployed in 2013 as a result of the country's weakening economy.
An employment report issued by the Beijing Youth Stress Management Service Center in May showed that the average monthly pay for this year's new graduates is 2,000 to 2,500 yuan (327 to 408 U.S. dollars), accounting for 60 percent of the average monthly salary for new grads in 2012.
Although Beijing resident Yang Lijun managed to nail down a job in the same city as her boyfriend after graduating from Tsinghua University, she is still having difficulty in keeping their romance alive.
"We have no time to be as romantic as before, as my job's night shifts basically deprive me of the opportunity to see him," Yang said.
"We have no time or money for regular celebrations. Life has made us the most unromantic people in the world," she said.
Yang now lives with three roommates in a 60-square-meter apartment and only sees boyfriend during weekends. Her monthly rent is 2,400 yuan, nearly two-thirds of her monthly pay.
It is customary for young Chinese couples to purchase a home before getting married. Many women even refuse to marry a man before he has obtained a home. However, growing housing prices have made it difficult for young men to do so.
The average transaction price for a single square meter of housing in Beijing in July was 25,292 yuan, as estimated by HomeLink, a property brokerage firm.
"When I think about the down payment on our future apartment, my mood for romance is immediately gone," Yang said.
Fan said he believes new graduates like Han and Yang need the care and support of all of society, as young people will play a significant role in China's future development.
"Unlike their parents, this generation was born and raised during an economic boom. Few of them have had difficult life experiences, so they need time and support to become strong and independent, both financially and mentally,"Fane said.
Li Tonggui, a social psychology professor at Peking University, said more social services should be offered in order to help graduates adapt to post-campus life.
Although things have been difficult so far, Yang said she is still confident in the future of her relationship.
"The days when we work hard together for our future can be a lifetime fortune for us. It doesn't matter how we celebrate the Qixi Festival. A phone call or a text message could be the best gift, as long as we are together," she said.