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Young Chinese face hard road to happiness

By Liu Wei (Xinhua)

15:18, May 03, 2013

BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Soaring prices and a complicated household registration system are preventing many young Chinese from obtaining their first home, with many expressing worry about their futures.

31-year-old Chen Yu, a program editor at a state-run TV station, is one of them. The significant expense of purchasing a home, as well as Chen's lack of a Beijing "hukou," or urban household registration, have prevented him from acquiring his own house.

"I can't imagine what I will be like in ten years, when I still won't be able to afford a house or even a car," Chen said.

In China, social benefits such as education, medical treatment and the ability to purchase a home are tied to the hukou. A person with a Beijing hukou, for instance, is not able to purchase a home in Shanghai unless he or she acquires a Shanghai hukou.

Chen's predicament has made him anxious about his future. He is worried that he may have already passed the prime of his life.

"If I were in my twenties again, I would travel for pleasure and try different jobs. Now I feel like a timid mouse. I take things one step at a time," he said.

Chen's worries are shared by many others. A 2010 report issued by China Everbright Bank and Home Link, a Beijing-based real estate agency, stated that China has the youngest "mortgage slaves" in the world, with the average age for acquiring a first mortgage standing at 27.

While most young Chinese are feeling incredible pressure to buy a house, get married and have children, their European peers are spending their time traveling the world and exploring different opportunities.

"In Europe, college graduates have a gap year after graduation and they can make full use of this period of time to think about what they want to do next," said Zhang Zhongwen, a 24-year-old employee of a foreign embassy in Beijing who recently returned from Scotland.

"I can't accept a rigid job with no passion. Working like a machine would kill me," said Zhang, adding that he is already prepared to quit his embassy job.

Born to a well-off family, Zhang had more time and money to spend before entering the working world. His parents have already offered to pay his way if he wishes to study abroad again this year.

Zhang said he was amazed by the fact that many Europeans in their thirties do not own their own homes.

"That's not acceptable in China. If you live in a rented room, you feel ashamed," Zhang said.

The fact that he has had to rely on his parents has made Zhang dissatisfied with the current state of his life. Many young Chinese are in the same situation, receiving handouts from their parents well after graduating from college.

"They have no other choice but to become boomerang kids," Chen said.

Since most young Chinese can't afford to purchase their first home, their parents are often left to make the down payment.

"On the road to happiness, a house is a must," Chen said.

Although his own road has been a bumpy one, Chen has refused to give up, hoping to make his way somehow in Beijing.

"I refuse to go back home, even though my parents have urged me to do so several times," he said.

Chen believes he has one last chance to stay in Beijing. He plans to take a PhD exam, as fresh graduates can apply for positions that allow them to get a Beijing hukou.

"If I fail, I might just pack up and go home," he said.

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