The Chinese “Lay Flat” Attitude: No Mortgage, No Marriage, No Kids

Lay flat image from a Chinese forum. I'm laying flat, you come and do what you wish.

Lay flat image from a Chinese forum. I’m laying flat, you come and do what you wish.

It has always been tough for the vast majority of people in China. The wealth disparity is huge in China. If you are from a top city in China, then chances are that your life will be much easier than the rest of China. This has led to a despairing attitude called “Laying Flat”, where young people opt out of the usual social progressions of Chinese life: house, marriage, kids.

To live in a large city in China you need a “Hukou 户口“, a document that entitles you to live in the city. Without it you and your kids may not be able to access social services such as education and health care. If you are born in a large city, then you have no issues. If you are unfortunate enough to be part of the majority of Chinese that live outside of a large city, then without a hukou the government could easily simply round you up and send you back to your hukou location. This happens on a regular basis in China. Without a hukou you are a migrant labourer. With education and a job, your danwei or company can get you a hukou, but this is difficult.

Without a hukou you cannot buy an apartment in the city. This alone is a disincentive for people to move to a big city. Socially this is also a huge negative for young men who wish to marry. One of the prerequisites of marriage is that the guy must have a house for the new couple to live in. Families that already live in the city prepare for years in advance for this, so they are ready. If you have no family in the city and also have no hukou, it is extremely difficult for you to buy a house.

Even if you have a hukou in a large city, China’s housing prices have been skyrocketing. Even with a relatively good salary you need an extremely large mortgage to pay for an apartment. Even when you do, the apartment is only yours for the government sanctioned 70 year lease. You do not own the land nor space the apartment sits on. No one really knows what happens after the 70 year lease expires, because this has not occurred yet. For certain is that when you hand down your apartment to your kids, the 70 year lease continues and is not extended.

No house is a huge disadvantage for men wishing to marry. No house means no marriage, which means also no kids. This is the predicament of young males in China. Further complicating issues is that China’s family planning, or One Child Policy, has skewed the sex ratio such that there are mroe than 10% more males than females, adding to the competition for marriage.

These conditions all stack the deck against young men in China. The term “Laying Flat”, or 躺平, is thought to be a movement to not marry, not have a mortgage and not to have kids.

A popular new idea among Gen Z is to “lay flat”, adopting an attitude of no marriage, no mortgage and no kids.

I don’t think laying flat is a conscious decision that young people, and especially young males have made, but more of a consequence of their place in society. Young males outside of China’s large cities have the social deck stacked against them. The social convention of marriage requires the male already have a house, which is extremely expensive, even if he already has a hukou. Living expenses in China are high relative to income. Work conditions require long hours with low pay. This makes it difficult to improve oneself. Hence, it is reasonable for some young people to step back and step away from China’s social conventions of success: They Lay Flat, not by choice but by consequence.

Yesterday the Chinese government said it will allow married couples to have up to three children. Single mothers are again left out, their children denied government support. As with the extension to allow having two children, this is bound to fail. There is a lot of pressure on young people to survive in China, with very little incentive to have kids. The “lay flat” thought movement dovetails very well with the lack of kids in China. The social reasons for not having kids have similar deep, underlying reasons.

Lie-Flatism”: An excerpt from China in Focus NTD, 7’31”. New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD, Chinese: 新唐人電視台, Xīntángrén diànshìtái) is a multilingual American television broadcaster, New York City.

Lay flat image from a Chinese forum. I'm laying flat, you come and do what you wish.

Lay flat image from a Chinese forum. I’m laying flat, you come and do what you wish.

Why China’s youth are ‘lying flat’ in protest of their bleak economic prospects

Young Chinese fed up with what they see as limited prospects in the face of gruelling work hours, a trend of conspicuous consumption and skyrocketing house prices are choosing to do the bare minimum. Instead of striving to buy a house, car, or even start a family, they are rejecting it all to “lie flat”.

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