Mounting Inflation Worsens ‘New Year Phobia’

February 22, 2011 11:23 am Last Updated: February 22, 2011 4:24 pm

Chinese New Year is a traditional holiday celebrated by families getting together. For some, this once-yearned-for holiday has in recent years become a huge burden and instead an occasion they wish to avoid.

An article published in the Feb. 7 edition of Nanfang Daily said according to an online survey, only 11 percent of the respondents are still excited for the new year holiday. The remainder said that the annual holiday is the most difficult time of the year for them.

"Another year, with an empty wallet. Busy working as a migrant worker for a whole year. We have to buy gifts for people despite inflation. What will happen when I see my family back home? What will happen next year?” This popular prose expressed the thoughts of many migrant workers on the eve of the new year.

The question of “How much money do we need to bring home” is foremost on the minds of many Chinese people. Many have commented online about the expenses incurred by the holiday. A survey showed that most respondents spend 20 to 60 percent over their budget.

One netizen named "Jolly pain" blogged that as a migrant worker in Guangzhou, if he flies home to Shandong with his wife for Chinese New Year the tickets alone are 6,000 yuan (US$912). He also needs to give his parents 5,000 yuan as gifts, and 3,000 yuan to other family members. Meals and groceries will be about 1,000 yuan. The total expense will exceed 15,000 yuan, which is the equivalent of two months' salary.

Zhao Tianwei, who spent three days in his hometown in Harbin, said his trip cost him over 20,000 yuan. “If I stayed longer, I would’ve had to borrow money to buy a ticket back.”

Zhao told Nanfang Daily that he needs to give cash gifts to his parents, nieces and nephews. Gifts are also a necessity for visiting extended family members. In addition, he has to contribute to the family’s grocery fund since people usually buy better meat and produce during the new year holiday. He also hosted dinner parties with friends and former classmates. Everything is about building and maintaining relationships.

Another online commentator said, “I am afraid of the terrible overcrowding on the trains. I don't think I can afford to go home for the holiday. I am also nervous that my parents will pressure me to get married soon. I’m tired just thinking of all the lunches and dinners I’m expected to attend. I’m worried about paying the bills and feeling depressed after the holiday.”

This is not the first year “new year phobia” has been felt by Chinese. Most people affected by this phenomenon are in their 20s and early 30s.

In Jan. 2011, the online version of Jiefang Daily ( published a letter written by a college graduate to his peasant father. The son said he only made 1,000 yuan a month, and felt ashamed to go back to his hometown. In his letter, he said, “After I get paid at the end of the year, I have to pay rent. The train ticket home is over 400 yuan. I won't even have enough money left to buy a sweater for mother. Father, I am too ashamed to go home.”

Mr. Song Pingyang, a 27-year-old worker in Chongqing City, said, “Everyone wants to go home for a meal cooked by his or her mom. But I don't even have money in my pocket, so I don't dare to go home.”

This year escalating inflation has added new pressure and worsened the problem.

Read the original Chinese article.