Pressure of work takes its toll

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-05 07:01

Landing a well-paid job in a foreign company is something millions of China's jobseekers dream of, but the findings of a recent survey may change their minds.

Nearly 90 percent of Chinese staff in foreign companies suffer from work-related illnesses, according to a recent survey by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group.

Of the 1,521 respondents working for foreign companies, 91 percent reported symptoms such as burnout, stress, frustration, lack of sleep or numbness in the neck and shoulders after work, said Horizon. Those interviewed cited a total of 27 work-related symptoms.

Interviews were carried out over the telephone, via e-mail or fax or face to face in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan.

And 15.4 percent of those surveyed said they suffered from at least seven symptoms, which could lead to a breakdown or serious illness according to Horizon analysts.

Another 5 percent said they suffered from at least 10 symptoms, which indicated they were extremely overworked, said Horizon.

Half of the respondents said they did little physical exercise, while many complained about working more than 10 hours a day, returning home late at night and having to work over weekends.

Of the most common symptoms of interviewees, 30 percent said they suffered from poor memory because of working overtime, as well as stress, mood swings and accelerated aging.

Middle-aged, highly paid employees were more vulnerable to work-related illnesses, according to the survey.

About 15.8 percent of the middle-aged respondents said they showed at least seven symptoms.

According to Wu Zebin, a sociology researcher at Peking University, middle-aged staff are typically more stressed because they tend to shoulder both career pressure and family responsibilities, in some cases with three generations living under one roof.

"At 40, I'm eager for promotion, and it gnaws away at me," said Huang, an engineer with a foreign-funded machinery firm.

Of the group earning more than 8,000 yuan ($1,025) a month, 19 percent said they suffered at least seven symptoms of being overworked.

A lack of regular health checks and an unhealthy lifestyle, including drinking, smoking and skipping breakfast also made matters worse, according to the survey.

But with several deaths reported at domestic firms and universities over the past few years being put down to overwork, the problem does not seem to be specific to foreign companies.

"What marks the foreign firms out is that competition there is generally tougher," said Wu.

Wu suggested a more all-encompassing labor law be established to ensure the legal rights and healthy lifestyles of employees.

(China Daily 02/05/2007 page2)

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