China is famous for having perhaps the most fickle work force on earth. Up to 30 per cent of staff commonly leave in any given year. They are usually driven by a mixture of greed and ambition – the quest for higher salaries, faster promotions, a bigger car or a better secretary.
But since last year, more and more workers have been handing in their notice before they get that next job, often for lifestyle reasons – a phenomenon known in China as luoci, or "naked resignation."
Hong Xiangyang, manager of Sunward Career Management Consulting in Shanghai, estimates that 20 per cent of those aged 22 to 35 have resigned "nakedly" at least once in their careers – and 80 per cent have thought about it. One Chinese newspaper named luoci the leading labour trend of last year.
Li Zixin, 32, remembers the moment that he decided to press the button on his sudden resignation from his job in public relations – and he remembers even more clearly what made him do it.
"I really hated to go to work … I had to provide 24-hour-a-day service … take journalists to dinner, buy them gifts, and they were only interested in money," he says in a litany of complaints that included the crowded Shanghai metro and the fact that his office was near a hospital where the wailing of bereaved relatives disturbed his mood.
His young son had to be kept up until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. to see his father after work, "and I was not involved in many aspects of his life", Mr Li says. So he quit, forgoing a large year-end bonus, "and now I can be home with my son at 4:30 p.m. every day".
These are hardly the kind of sentiments one expects from the typical Chinese worker. But recruitment experts say they are increasingly common among the generation of twenty- to thirtysomething Chinese workers, raised with a level of affluence their Cultural Revolution-era parents could never have dreamt of.
"Everything makes our generation so exhausted," says Rey Lee, 31, who has resigned "nakedly" four times just to get some rest. "We are only children, we only thought about ourselves, but now we have four parents and one child to look after, it's very, very difficult".
Christie Liu has decided to take her American MBA and her years of experience at a global multinational, and walk away from her job too. "In Chinese we have a saying, 'After 30 you should find your own identity and do something you really like," says the mother of a young toddler. She tried consulting, but found that 15- to 16-hour days crunching data were not to her liking. "I decided to listen to my inner instinct, and launch a female lingerie brand," she said.
Both Ms. Lee and Mr. Li have spouses who also did a "naked" resignation, and they predict that the phenomenon will grow as news spreads that there is life after luoci.