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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:42, March 27, 2007
Consumption survey of "post-1980s" people
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In China, those who were born in the 1980's and are now aged between 17 and 26 are called the "post-1980s" generation. In the next few years the 200 million people belonging to this generation will play the leading role in China's consumer market. Having experienced economic globalization and Internet development as well as growing up in a market economy, the "post-1980s" generation has a totally different consumer attitude to their parents and an increasing influence on the social consumption structure.

Fashion and personal style; "I love it! This is my style!"

Su Chang, 23, showed me his new Sony PSP. "I can play games on it as well as watch movies and listen to music. Isn't it cool?" Su Chuang always carries the latest products with him: a new business cell phone, an iPod, a five-mega-pixel digital camera in his pockets and an IBM notebook in his bag. He spends more than 10 hours surfing the Internet every day and buys books, CDs and other digital products online. He likes to go to karaoke with his friends and organize DIY tours during holidays.

The "post-1980s" generation pursues fashion and personality. In China today, the highly developed media and rapid flow of information has driven consumption up as people follow trends and fashions. "Post-1980s" people are more willing to accept new things and follow fashions and trends. They are more interested in the brand and 'look' of a product than its actual core functions. To them, a cell phone is not just a communication tool, but a fashionable accessory for them to show off. They follow trends with great interest and purchase the latest electronic products.

Most "post-1980s" people were born in nuclear, one-child families. They usually have an independent and self-centered personality, think independently and have their own values. They are reluctant to be stereotyped and grouped; they try to develop their own unique personality and style. "I love it! This is my style!"

The Internet has become a way of life for the "post-1980s"generation. They spend a great deal of time and money on the Internet. QQ and MSN are one of their day-to-day communication tools. They also love online games and buy most of their consumer goods online.

Due to their growing consumer power, more and more businesses and companies are focusing on this group. Last December, Legend Group launched its "Fenshishang i807" cell phone (meaning "very fashionable"). It was designed in particular for the "post-1980s" generation and focused on "fashion and online entertainment". China Merchants Bank also launched the "Hello Kitty card" and "MSN card" for the "post-1980s" generation. Many well-known brand developers have chosen children of the 1980s as their spokespeople.

Pursuing material comfort; Delicious food, designer apparel and high-end entertainment products

Nowadays, advertisements, videos and the Internet have created a new consumer culture. Influenced by such culture, the "post-1980s" generation focuses on enjoying life. People used to spend their money primarily on purchasing family assets such as housing and electrical appliances. The "post-1980s" generation is more interested in sensory consumption, spending money on CDs, the Internet, interactive games, travel, social gatherings and fitness. They are attracted to luxury consumer goods and have a distinctive preference for designer products. To them, computers, MP3s, digital cameras and other digital products are "must-haves". Many people belonging to this generation are very extravagant and want to keep up with trends.

Colleges and university students want to enjoy daily life, rather than just 'survive' it as they did in the past. According to the 2005 "Study on the Consumption and Lifestyle Habits of Chinese University Students in the 21st Century", more and more university students own high-end consumer goods. Approximately 60 percent of university students have personal cell phones, 27 percent have PCs, 20 percent have PDAs, 12 percent have MP3 players, and 7 percent have digital cameras. More than 10 percent of college and university students own brand name products like Adidas and Nike.

Premature mature consumption; "Spending tomorrow's money on today's dream"

Unlike their parents who live frugally and within their means, the "post-1980s" generation spends most of what they earn. Many of them seldom save money.

He Tiantian, 26, works in a foreign-funded company. She earns a substantial amount every month but seldom saves any of it. A look at her monthly expenses reveals that she spends 700 yuan a month on food, 1,400 yuan on rent, 250 yuan on transportation, 400 yuan on fitness and leisure, 500 yuan on entertainment, 250 yuan on telephone bills, and 120 yuan on utilities, bringing the total to 3,620 yuan. Adding in what she spends on designer clothes, cosmetics and updating her cell phone and digital products, Tiantian often has a "deficit" in her account. However, Tiantian speaks for most of the "post-1980s" generation. "I spend money because I make it. Although I don't have any money saved, I lead a high-quality life. I couldn't afford a house or car on my current salary. Why not spend all the money and enjoy my life now?"

A high proportion of this generation has credit cards and overdraws their accounts. They might not have much purchasing power, but they buy houses and cars. Now some banks issue credit cards to university students. Many students are starting to spend money that they do not have �C credit.

According to some analysts, there are two reasons that the "post-1980s" generations have such confidence in spending. One is the quiet dedication and support of their parents. Many of this generation still rely on their parents even after they get a job. In fact, they are spending their parents' money on shopping and entertainment. The other reason they are so confident is that they are sure they will make money in the future.

Proper guidance is needed; Establishing a concept of "rational and prudent spending and sustainable consumption"

A professor of the Department of Sociology at China People's University, Xia Jianzhong, believes that the "post-1980s" generation cannot be criticized for their desire to spend and develop a distinctive personality. Their habits reflect their age and their willingness to accept new things, preference for modern appliances and enthusiasm for emerging electronic products promotes scientific and technological innovation and progress. These are the strengths of this generation.

The "post-1980s" generation has grown up in a better environment than their parents. They rely on their parents' love and affection and spend money like water. This, however, is not good for social development. Many children of the 1980s are excessively self-centered. They consider only their own feelings and seldom think of their parents' financial burden. Many also lack a sense of responsibility towards their family. Their growing consumption habits are incompatible with their earnings which may cause them to take economic risks. Comparatively speaking, China's overall material foundation is still weak. The "post-1980s" generate are expected to be wealthier and generate more wealth for society. However, if they continue to consume more than they create, society faces an economic risk.

Professor Xia concluded that consumerism, money worship and hedonism are the main reasons that the "post-1980s" generation wants material comforts and consumes prematurely. Guidance should be given to the "post-1980s" generation. Helping them form industrious and thrifty living habits and establishing the concept of "rational and prudent spending and sustainable consumption" has become a pressing task.

By People's Daily Online

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