Chinese ad for under-30s triggers outcry from older job-seekers

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A job advert from a Chinese grocery store seeking cashiers aged 18 to 30 has triggered a flood of anguished social media posts from older people scrambling to find work in a sluggish economy.

Some said the ad highlighted the plight of a huge middle-aged section of the population as the government focuses on fighting high youth unemployment and finding positions for another record year of college graduates.

“It’s not easy,” a commenter in the city of Ningbo in the eastern province of Zhejiang, posted on the Weibo social media platform.

The user posted a picture of the ad seeking cashiers, prompting more than 140 million views and 41 000 comments – many of them emotional.

“Do you think it is easy to find a job now?” the Weibonetizen wrote.

“I am 33 this year and have been looking for a job for three years,” another Weibo user said.

There is no specific law against age discrimination, though state media last year criticised employers for “discriminatory” hiring practices, including seeking younger and cheaper workers, in what became widely referred to as the “Curse of 35”.

“I’m 29,” one commenter wrote on Weibo. “I’ve been laid off three times since I graduated. Now, no one has replied to my resume even if I (write) I am unmarried and do not have a child.”

“Was it difficult to find a job when you were over 35 before?” another Weibo user asked, with an accompanying emoji icon representing bitterness. “Now it’s 30 years old.”

“At the same time, the retirement age has to be delayed. So what are you going to do in between?” the user added.

China is planning to raise the retirement age in phases as the population ages, state media has reported, though no specific plans have been announced.

The retirement age currently stands at 60 for men, and younger still for women, who may retire at 55 from white-collar jobs, but 50 if working in factories.

Another recent job ad for the upscale supermarket chain Pangdonglai also set 30 as the maximum age for the positions it was trying to fill.

When contacted by Reuters, the supermarket declined to comment. The Workers Daily newspaper last year published an editorial saying job seekers should not face discrimination based on age, gender or marital status but that it would take time to change companies’ attitudes.