Chinese millennials are rejecting dull factory jobs — and transforming the economy

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Job seekers check out employment ads at a recruitment fair in Qingdao, eastern China. (STR / AFP/Getty Images)

Life as one of China’s industrial worker ants did not suit Liu Xu: waking up early in factory accommodation, working for 11 hours operating a machine in the tool-making factory, eating all his meals in the factory canteen and going to bed, only to wake up and do it again.

His parents spent most of their lives in deadening jobs — his father on construction sites and his mother in factories — but 23-year-old Liu Xu lasted just a year in a factory in the southern China city of Dongguan. Half of that was the time his company invested in training him to work the machine before he up and quit.

Like Liu, a generation of young Chinese is turning its back on the factory jobs that once fueled China’s growth — and they are helping to transform the economy by doing it.

“Life in the factory was really boring and repetitive,” Liu said. “Every day I walked into the factory, I felt like this was all there was to my life. I was going to end up in that factory forever.

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