China’s young professionals prefer staying in, to the nightlife industry’s dismay

Society & Culture

For a long time, office workers in China were regular contributors to the country’s nightlife economy. But due to rising living costs and mounting pressure at work in recent years, more professionals are preferring to stay in than go out, according to a survey (in Chinese) released earlier this month.

Conducted by Zhìlián Zhāopìn 智联招聘, one of the top job recruitment platform in China, and Měituán Diǎnpíng 美团点评, an online-to-offline mega app that provides food delivery service, the survey found that out of 6,895 respondents, a whopping 82.8 percent fancy having a relaxing night at home. Only about 5 percent of the participants said they prefer a night out, while the remaining 12 percent simply don’t have time to venture outside because of long working hours.

Watching TV shows and using short video apps like TikTok and Kuaishou are the favorite activities of those who stay in. Breaking it down by gender, men prefer spending time on video games and watching live-stream apps, while women prefer doing online shopping.

However, staying in doesn’t necessarily mean not spending any money, as food, shopping, and all sorts of entertainment are just an app tap away. More than 40 percent of the people surveyed said they spend more money at night than during the day, mostly on food takeout, online games, and lives-streaming services. But in terms of spending habits, white-collar workers seem to be generally frugal and pragmatic, with more than 70 percent spending less than 200 yuan ($28) per night.

Chinese office workers are clearly leaning toward a more sedate lifestyle, and it’s not hard to explain why. For starters, as China’s economic slowdown continues to worsen, staying home is just a more cost-efficient way to relax. Also, the toxic culture of overwork, which has plagued almost every industry in the country, is leading an increasing number of white-collar workers to a breaking point of exhaustion. In fact, more than 60 percent of participants in the study expressed the desire to be more outgoing and adventurous, but only on the condition of “having more money and free time.”

In an effort to boost local nightlife industries, several Chinese provinces and cities have rolled out policies aimed at making going out more convenient and appealing. In April, Shanghai appointed its first chief executive officer of nightlife, who is responsible for creating more seasonal nighttime events, such as a cruise tour on the Huangpu River. In July, Beijing took a similar approach to organize more nighttime activities that are family-friendly and creative. It also decided to increase evening public transportation services on Fridays and Saturdays from May to October.

But Chinese internet users don’t seem impressed by the proposals, judging by their comments on the news:

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“To be honest, given that I usually clock out at 10 and have to work the next day, I simply have no energy for a night out. Also, how am I supposed to spend more while earning so little?

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“I’ll go on wild spending sprees if I don’t have to pay off my mortgage.”

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“It’s 996 already. What else do you want?”

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“The only method is cut off the internet from 7 to 12.”

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“It’s all about money in my pocket. Want me to spend my hard-earned money at night? No way.”