"I need more leisure time," my friend told me when she was about to hand in her resignation and leave the internationally reputed company where she had been working for over five years. Work-life balance has increasingly become the criterion in judging the quality of life.
The bad news: The average leisure time of Chinese people dropped to 2.27 hours per day in 2017 - only half of that in Europe and the US, according to the 2018 Green Book of China's Leisure. The report suggests that residents in first-tier Chinese cities have the least daily leisure time: 1.94 hours in Shenzhen, 2.04 hours in Guangzhou, 2.14 hours in Shanghai, and 2.25 hours in Beijing.
While people strive to climb up the social ladder for better life, they ironically end up with less time in their personal life.
Yearning for a long holiday, they act in the exactly opposite way - 24/7 ready for any commission from their boss, and fearful of missing any text or email. A second after getting a message from the commissioning boss, they find themselves sitting at the computer in their pajamas during a highly-anticipated holiday. "If I don't work during leisure time, I risk my job," my friend told me, complaining about her hesitation every time she intended to turn down her superior's request to work overtime.
Exploitation of employees' leisure time is one of the most direct ways for companies to make more profits, especially in emerging economies. It has increasingly common for staff to be stuffed even without being on the rota. Companies need to survive, and bottom-tier employees are those who need to pay the price.
Frankly, despite repeated calls for more leisure time, working beyond one's normal job hours is unavoidable during a country's development. This is how market economy works. It takes time for a country to progress and offer 100-percent labor protection. Weisure - a neologism coined by US sociologist Dalton Conley to describe an age where work can be as readily done from bed as from an office - should not become the norm.
An increasing number of Chinese people have gradually lost their enthusiasm for work after years of tired work, and decided to leave metropolises for smaller cities in pursuit of a work-life balance. An enhanced awareness of rights is a sign of societal progress. This will push companies to strike a balance between labor rights and their yearning for profits.
The Green Book suggests that China should consider adopting a four-day (36-hour) working week by 2030 and extending the length of the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival holidays. There is no doubt that a country is stepping into a higher developmental phase if it is starting to put more emphasis on people's quality of life.