Generally speaking, Shanghai’s white-collar workers have a sense of anxiety and pressure

This sense of anxiety and stress comes from three superimposed factors: First, the sense of an occupational crisis is constantly increasing. There is increasingly fierce competition in an occupational landscape marked by "internal high-speed flow”, which causes Shanghai's white-collar workers to generally have a sense of tension in regards to their occupational safety. According to the analysis of sample surveys of customer samples by Shanghai СВР Career Consultants Co., Ltd. (2005), 68% of white-collar workers have had a serious sense of occupational anxiety for some time already and feel that they exist in a “precarious” position. For those with this occupational anxiety, the industries that provide the weakest sense of security include IT software, financial securities, fast moving consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and advertising. What makes people in these five major industries uneasy is that an increasing number of college graduates are pouring into the occupational market, and the high performers have become strong competition in the occupational market. Many returnees from overseas, as well as middle and senior level professionals from Hong Kong, Taiwan and foreign countries also choose Shanghai as a base for their career development. There are also some foreign professionals who come to Shanghai to search for opportunities after failing to succeed in their home country, an example being Japanese workers who enter Shanghai after being laid off. This has increased the choices available to employers, and thus increased the replaceability of occupational positions (Shanghai СВР Career Consultants Co., Ltd., 2005). In some industries at the forefront of competition, white-collar employees face an unprecedented amount of pressure. Research by relevant departments of Shanghai Media Group has found that 77.7% of employees feel an increasingly large amount of work-related stress. According to a survey conducted by Shanghai СВР Career Consultants Co., Ltd. (2005), 78% of Shanghai white-collar workers surpassed Beijing and Guangzhou to rank first among the three places on a comparison of the workplace survival stress index.7

Second, some irregular operations in the market sector have intensified the sense of anxiety and stress of S white-collar workers. The income composition of Shanghai's white-collar workers mainly includes wage income and property income. Property income refers to income earned through stocks, futures, and other forms of investment. In recent years, there have been some irregularities in the stock investment market,8 resulting in a considerable number of S white-collar workers suffering losses of varying degree in this area of property income9. 10 In addition, speculation in the real estate market during the past two years has also brought a great deal of stress to the lives of some S white collars. This is especially for the case for S white-collar workers who have entered Shanghai from other regions, as they face immense pressure from rapidly rising housing prices. Hidden behind these market irregularities is the disparity in the ability of different social groups to safeguard their own interests (see Sun. 2005). For those members of the social group who can mobilize various forces, they can operate financial capital and use information in a variety of ways, and even have an impact on public policy. These individuals have a strong ability to strive for their own interests. Most S white-collar workers, on the other hand, are very limited in their ability to defend their own interests and this often causes anxiety about pressure from the housing market, education and health care.

The third aspect is psychologically anticipatory stress caused by the disparity generated by Western-oriented lifestyles, consumption patterns and existing income levels. As far as the reality of Shanghai's urban professional society is concerned, the income of emerging professions has not yet formed a relatively stable standard. This situation often causes a portion of the S white-collar workers who are employed in emerging industries to have a relative sense of deprivation, leading to an unbalanced social mentality. If measured by income and property, a considerable number of Shanghai's white-collar workers do not reach the relative level of the middle class from developed Western countries. However, these white collars do tend to accept the ideas of the Western middle class in terms of consumer choice and lifestyle. For example, they wear tasteful clothing, desire to live in a residential area commensurate with their professional status, enjoy a wholesome life, and so on. Some consulting agencies conducted surveys on high-end consumer goods and a bulk goods consumption information index for 120 white-collar workers in different industries in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The results showed that the highest average Shanghai consumer information index was only 37%, while Beijing and Guangzhou were at 51% and 67%, respectively. Analysts believe that Shanghai white-collar workers have the lowest consumer information index for high-end consumer goods, and that this is related to their pursuit of brand-name goods and consumption of luxury goods. Shanghai's high housing prices made them unable to pursue the consumption of luxury goods outside of the purchase of homes; they can only hope and sigh. This created a huge gap between purchasing power and expectations, and is the main reason behind the decline in their consumer information index (Shanghai СВР Career Consultants Co., Ltd., 2005). It is in this consumption orientation and life pursuit that they are always sensitive to the gap between their own expenditures and income, and then find that there is some inequality between their output and gain, so that their state of mind has an added sense of anxiety and pressure. If this state of affairs continues, it may have some negative impact on social stability.

The white-collar workers in Western countries also have a sense of stress and anxiety, but this sense of stress and anxiety is mainly related to their sense of professional crisis. In contrast, the Shanghai’s white-collar workers not only have a sense of professional crisis, but also a sense of relative deprivation from the market, and are in a tight relationship between Western lifestyles, consumption- orientations and current income levels. These three superimposed factors cause the Shanghai’s white-collar group to generally feel heavily burdened. Therefore, they have focused a great deal of attention on the improvement of their careers and the appreciation of their property value. In our view, this attention distribution structure has a great negative impact on their social and political participation.11

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