Decline in leisure time rekindles debate over overwork
Published: Aug 18, 2020 11:50 PM

Young staff work overtime at night in the office. File Photo: VCG

Chinese netizens on Tuesday spent part of their limited leisure time in heated discussions about overwork and the health problems it causes, following the release of a new survey that shows Chinese people's leisure time had dropped about 25 minutes to 2.42 hours a day since 2018. 

China Economic Life Survey (2019-2020), which was released by China Central Television (CCTV), showed that 40 percent of respondents have 1 to 3 hours of leisure time per day while 25 percent have less than one hour. The statistics struck a chord among many netizens, who work and commute long hours. 

Sixty percent of survey participants said they have to work hard to meet the basic needs of life. Just over 59 percent said they work for "raising children" and 44 percent said they work for "caring for parents." 

People between the ages of 36 and 45 said they face more family pressure as they are the "generation in middle."

Many netizens said they "feel exhausted after work and just want to sleep" or complained their long commute home gave them "no time to relax."

Chinese worked an average of 46.5 hours a week in 2018, an increase of 22 percent from a decade earlier, according to media report. Overwork impacting people's health and leading to early death has made headlines from time to time. 

Housework also took away from leisure time. A net user shared her schedule on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo: Finish work at 7pm, pick up the child, cook and do other housework; caring for the family usually ends at 10pm. The net user wrote that she then has an hour to make arrangements for the next day. "Even two hours [of leisure time] is luxurious for me," the net user said. 

Many people also discussed how the coronavirus had changed their schedule and not always for the good. 

"I initially thought working from home was a good idea as I didn't need to commute. But later I realized that the boss expected us to be on call 12 hours," a Beijing resident surnamed Sun said, noting the longer work hours forced her to keep checking her phone frequently while doing grocery or sports. 

Eighty-eight percent of the respondents to a China Youth Daily survey felt their use of mobile phones had increased since the pandemic . 

The annual China Economic Life Survey has been conducted for 14 years and 130,000 answers were collected this year via questionnaires and an online poll.