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China Rebalancing

Achieving work-life balance must respect family traditions

As more Chinese seek?and find better work-life balance, there are increased opportunities for marketers to cater to their new lifestyles. However, brands need to understand that the Chinese are not simply adopting Western ways—because their culture informs their new behaviors.

China’s remarkable economic growth has come at a cost. Economic indicators assure us that the future looks bright and the Chinese feel the same way. But while their life is getting better, it’s still not much fun.

The latest JWT AnxietyIndex, a quantitative study conducted in?27 countries, shows that although the Chinese have concerns, overall they are among the least anxious of all nations surveyed. However, the Chinese ranked only 18th for “Very Happy.” www.anxietyindex.com

The JWT study, “Meet the BRIC Millennials” helps us understand why. Published in September 2013, it shows that while believing that the future looks bright, Chinese feel considerable stress on a number of fronts. The main factors are: pollution, food safety, job- related issues, stresses of city living and difficulty in achieving a work- life balance.

Fully 72 percent of Millennials?in China reported difficulty in achieving a work-life balance. This has particular relevance because it brings into conflict their dominant personal value, “protecting?the family” and their dominant values type, which is “achievers,” according to the Roper 2013 “Market Brief for China.”

Of course, being an achiever helps protect the family, but ambitions for their future are so high and competing in the workplace to achieve this so tough, that the resulting demands on people’s time are unacceptable. In fact, the Chinese “Would rather have more time than more money” (40 percent versus 29 percent globally), according to Roper.

While protecting the family is important, over 90 percent of Chinese Millennials believe it also is important to hold onto family traditions. Indeed, they feel that achieving better balance in life should respect not just the wishes of family members but also friends, bosses and workmates. They also have new attitudes about work and money: fully 90 percent of Chinese Millennials agree that, “The best measure of wealth is having a job that you like.”

Evidence of change

Of course, new attitudes do not always drive new behaviors. So, what is the evidence that change is actually happening?

SUVs have become the fastest- growing segment in the China new vehicles market. Strategies employed by JWT for Ford’s new SUVs have utilized insights based on finding balance in life. The online video for Ford’s EcoSport SUV features a young Chinese man who speaks candidly about pressures from family and work and finances. His “dream” car is a realistic choice: one that balances competing expectations—of his parents, girlfriend and boss, within a budget. Life isn’t perfect, so the key to balance is smart, real-world thinking, not dreaming.

China outbound travel is estimated to reach 95 million trips in 2013, according to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute. And the reasons for travel are directly related to achieving a more balanced life.

The first trip is driven by a need?to escape, to break away from the demands of daily life to experience a new country. This was successfully exploited by JWT’s American Tourister luggage campaign, which liberated young adults who want escape from their stressful life to be free to explore. Later trips are driven by the need to unwind, to recover from the rigors of daily life. To restore, not explore.

The quest for and achievement of more balance is also evidenced by increased interest in other leisure pursuits. China leads the other BRIC countries in willingness to invest in playing a sport, learning a musical instrument and learning to paint.

The quest for balance in life is endemic in successful economies, but similarities between China and the West only go so far. Chinese culture and the values it sustains are unique. The West has shown that more balance in life is possible, but the Chinese are achieving?this in their way, adopting new behaviors, certainly, but behaviors that continue to respect traditional Chinese values.

Timothy YorkHead of Planning
JWT Shanghai

About JWT

JWT is the world’s best-known marketing communications brand. The agency opened its first offices in Asia Pacific in 1929, and today has more than 3,000 employees spread across 18 countries in the region.