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Generational differences in China: career implications

Xiang Yi (Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA)
Barbara Ribbens (Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA)
Caryn N. Morgan (Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 26 October 2010




The purpose of this paper is to examine generational differences in attitudes toward careers in China. Generational differences are quite apparent in Chinese society. People who were born in the 1960s experienced the Cultural Revolution in their childhood. Those born in the 1970s witnessed the dramatic and profound social changes after China's open‐door policy was enforced. The generation born in the 1980s is believed to be the spoiled generation that highly values materialism and self‐realization, due to being the only child in the family as a result of the “One Child” policy.


The authors surveyed Chinese people between 20 and 50 years old about their career attitudes to explore six hypotheses based on predicted patterns of generational change.


The paper found more differences in desired attributes of their manager than in their perception of themselves. Some career attitudes and abilities vary across the three generations but, given the historical and common assumptions of generational change, extensive differences were not found.

Research limitations/implications:

The authors' sample of 277 can only provide general insights into Chinese attitudes, given the size and diversity of the Chinese population. The study hopes to spur further research into generational differences in China and elsewhere.

Practical implications

The paper provides insight into how the generational groups in China currently in the workforce think about their careers. Generational clashes in the workplace are also discussed.


No previous projects directly use the studies method or concepts in China. It builds on past work examining work values and career attitudes in China to contribute insights into generational differences within China.



Yi, X., Ribbens, B. and Morgan, C.N. (2010), "Generational differences in China: career implications", Career Development International, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 601-620.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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