Have you ever noticed the “help wanted” signs in China, you know, the ones that say “wanted, female, ages 18-25”? These jobs invariably involve minor clerical or waitress type work. It’s more important that she be a certain height (often 160cm) than to have any formal schooling certificates.
Today I had lunch at the “Steak & Eggs” diner in Shanghai (the American-run restaurant that started in Beijing). There was a new waitress who was very polite, decent, and – most amazing for China – she hustled. I mean, she really moved swiftly around the two story dining room. Judging by her face she had to be at least 35 (though from behind she could pass for 22, ohhh Chinese women…). The main point was not how attentive she was, but that she was “old” for this line of work. It helps that the owners are an American-Chinese mix, I believe, and that they themselves are late middle age. That is, we’d expect less age discrimination in this set up. But it led me to come here to ask what has crossed my mind from time to time. What do these girls do after they hit 28 or so and leave their original job? Obviously some enter the throes of motherhood and homemaker, but what about the rest? What does a woman in China do who has no education beyond high school, doesn’t know English, and doesn’t have tangible job skills?
NATOR ADDS: Hotpoter kind of said it in the comments, but I’ll be more specific: they get married. An American woman in a similar situation would probably think marriage is her best option; the typical Chinese woman will be a lot poorer and thus more likely to look to marriage. Also, China remains very conservative about certain things, and marriage is one of them. (Though I’d add with more emphasis on “till death do us part” and less on “to love and to cherish”.) And finally, Chinese women are increasingly outnumbered due to the combination of the one child policy and a traditional preference for males. More than ever before, China’s women will be able to “marry up”. So I think Hotpoter’s point is valid. Most of these women are going to want to get married, and they will get married, and they’ll have a better (financial) life than before.
I’m far more worried about China’s men with little education. What will these men–and there are already tens of millions of them–do when they get older and can’t even find a wife?