library in China

Chinese Youth Are Competing to Be Librarians for a Chill Lifestyle

Librarian positions in China have become more sought-after and competitive than ever before

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Hayley Zhao
5:06 PM HKT, Thu January 12, 2023 1 mins read

In China, the job of a civil servant has always been synonymous with security and stability. It isn’t uncommon for Chinese parents to talk their kids’ ears off about working for the public sector, as they believe that getting a government job will set their children up for life. As you can imagine, most rebellious youth typically brush off such advice.

However, this mentality has recently been changing, especially in the face of China’s stagnant job market and excessive 996 work culture. Many Chinese youth have started to seek out slow-paced and low-pressure jobs, which gave rise to 2021’s viral security guard trend.

For those who aren’t fans of uniforms, being a librarian is the new dream job. In fact, the librarian position at city and university libraries has become more sought-after and competitive than ever before. A reason for this is that public sector jobs come with desirable social and retirement benefits.

A simple search for posts tagged ‘librarian’ on Xiaohongshu, China’s top lifestyle platform, presents over 688,000 entries about the life in the shoes of a librarian as well as tutorials on how to apply for the role.

In case you were wondering, passing a government exam is the first step to applying for the position. National and provincial libraries even require candidates to have a master’s degree in certain subjects such as library science, Chinese language and literature, and archival science.

While the job requires meeting various prerequisites, it is not a well-paying one. According to Chinese digital newspaper The Paper, the starting monthly salary for a librarian in his or her first year is only around 3,000 RMB (about 442 USD) after taxes. Librarians can work their way up the ladder and earn more than 10,000 RMB a month, slightly higher than the national average of 8,903 RMB.


A Gen Zer who uses social media to share what’s it like to be a librarian in China. Image via Xiaohongshu

While the job of a librarian may not suit everyone, especially those who aspire to raise a family, buy a car, or own a home in the city, many in their 20s believe it’s a fair trade for a more relaxed lifestyle.

Some young librarians have joked that having the job is like being “semi-permanently retired,” and have hinted that the 9 to 5 job allows them to read books, drink tea, and perform light archival and administrative work that can be completed in just a few hours.

Compared to tech or finance workers, who must constantly put in overtime, librarians have time for themselves after clocking out, which is what drew them to the profession in the first place.

The librarian craze is a part of China’s larger ‘lying flat’ or ‘let it rot’ movement, which gained momentum in 2022. Even if young librarians decide to shift careers later in life, enjoying a less stressful job for a year or two, recharging one’s batteries, and picking up new skills doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Cover image via VCG

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