Today's "amphibious youth" are multitasking millennials who turn hobbies into profitable undertakings that bring them professional fulfillment.
According to a report from the job recruiter website Zhaopin, the three most popular side occupations in China are e-commerce vendors, writers, and designers, which enjoy strong market demand and have low entry barriers while offering enormous flexibility.
More than 17 percent of young working people, over 80 million, were taking second or third jobs in early 2019, an increase of 9.7 percent year-on-year.
Roughly half of those with one or more side jobs are between the ages of 24 and 28, and most have a bare minimum of a junior college education.
The term "everybody needs a side gig" has ranked among the top search terms on Sina Weibo recently, garnering around 150 million views and 21,000 comments.
Side jobs are becoming increasingly popular among young people in China, especially those who crave better lives backed by higher incomes and more diverse occupational options.
It’s not uncommon for China's amphibious youth to work more than 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week.
Today’s Story in the Story looks at China’s “amphibious youth,” an emerging demographic who eagerly turn creative abilities and hobbies into added revenue streams.
Yang Huizi, a college teacher in Beijing, makes papercuts in her spare time and sells her artistic creations online. (Photo: China Daily)
Pan Xueying, a public relations manager in Beijing, took on two part-time jobs as a marketing-events planner and new-media writer earlier this year, after her rent doubled when she moved into a new apartment.
The 26-year-old pays around $800 in rent and sends her parents almost $500 each month.
"I thought I should do something to confront the situation," she said, adding that her side jobs are important sources of extra income.
She makes around $1,800 a month from her primary job and earns upwards of $900 from her other two jobs.
She works from 10 am to 7 pm at her first job, and then goes home where she’ll work from 8 pm to 11 pm online seven days a week.
Pan said her side jobs have improved her living standards, strengthened her skills and expanded her social network. The downside is that she sometimes feels exhausted, as work occupies practically all of her time.
Ruan Fang, a partner with Boston Consulting Group, said the millennial generation is different from their predecessors, as they don't set obvious boundaries between work and life. "Work has become an integral part of their lives."
She added that the internet boom has also provided more opportunities for young people to live double lives in their free time. And they are also more open to making their hobbies profitable.
Yuan Chunran, a 29-year-old college teacher in Beijing, started offering online painting courses in 2016, which generates around $3,000 a month.
Yuan Chunran, a college instructor in Beijing, teaches online painting courses as his side job. (Photo: China Daily)
After his school classes end in the afternoon, he heads to his studio and begins his painting lessons from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm three nights a week.
"I'm glad to be able to do something that I'm really interested in, even if sometimes I feel tired out after working day and night," he said.
Yang Huizi, a college teacher in Beijing, runs online stores on the Taobao and Weidian e-commerce platforms, selling her own artistic creations.
The profit margin remains slim due to the high cost of buying materials, promotion and logistics.
"Although the revenue is much lower than my salary, I love doing it because it makes me happy when I can see my ideas turn into real objects that influence people," the 34-year-old said, adding the connection between her side business and her main job helps her improve her expertise.
Zhao Shuguang, a media professor at Nanjing University said the country's "amphibious youth" embody the spirit of hardworking Chinese people. They love the sense of achievement that comes from handling multiple occupations, and are willing to invest the time, energy and cash to make them work, he said.
Vice President of Zhaopin, Li Qiang, said that increasing job flexibility will help young entrepreneurs to thrive in the future as internet commerce and the shared economy continue their rapid development.
"But it's also important to develop your side jobs while handling your main career as well. Your choice of occupation should play to your strengths," Li said, and added, "improving your expertise is key to survival when faced with fierce competition."
However, Ruan cautioned that young people should not explore blind avenues to make quick money.
"If you are more interested in your side business, why not make it your main career? Only when you focus on a single idea will you be able to make a real success of it," she said.
(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Da Hang. Music by: bensound.com. Text from China Daily and Global Times.)