What China’s “45-Degree Life” Trend Means for Luxury


A new movement, tang ping, or “lying flat” (躺平) arose among China’s youth last year. It represents an attitude that refuses to engage with the country’s grueling “996” work culture  — that is, working 9am to 9pm, six days a week. 

Despite going viral online, is this trend indicative of a widespread cultural change? According to the latest study conducted by Fudan University’s Center for Communication and State Governance Research (on a sample of 4,000 Weibo users born between 1990 and 2005), it might not be so. The investigation found that over 70 percent of participants’ posts have shown the opposite: a hardworking attitude, and great appetite for learning and growth. In fact, only 10 percent had actually practiced “lying flat.” 

What It Is:

And so another neologism has emerged: “45-degree life” (45度人生). This refers to the gray area between burnout culture and “lying flat,” and is believed to be a more appropriate description of the younger generations’ attitude. 

Fudan University’s study results set the Chinese web alight, with the topic #post2000dontwanttolieflattheyareactuallyhardworking amassing over 700 million views on Weibo so far. Many netizens admitted that while they couldn’t afford to give up their salaries, they didn’t wish to “neijuan” (内卷), or overwork. Therefore they fit somewhere in-between: a “45-degree life.”

45-Degree Life

China’s youth cannot afford to give up their salaries, but also wish not to overwork. They see themselves as fitting in-between — and striking a balance between work and life. Sources: Weibo

This healthy, balanced lifestyle suggests practical avenues that luxury could explore: for instance, collaborations with sleep aid companies and therapy centers — or leveraging a diverse cast of KOLs instead of the usual fashion influencers.

Why it Matters: 

This cohort is known for defending their rights. Many post-2000s interns or junior employees have spoken out on the web to decry unfair work cultures and demand more transparency in the workplace. 

On this point, luxury should be wary. An industry based on selling fantasies, its own working practices are often far from dreamy. Low wages, especially in retail, can alienate young talents and sit uneasily with them — especially given the industry’s exorbitant (and rising) prices. The potential exposure of unpleasant working conditions and low salaries could well lead to a PR disaster: something every company wants to avoid.

The Bottom Line: 

Companies often place customers’ interests at the heart of their strategy. Maybe now it’s time for them to look to the people behind the scenes responsible for the business’ success. Maisons should take pride in fostering a transparent and healthy work culture. While the fact that it is the right thing to do should be reason enough, a positive brand image will arise from the prioritization of employee wellness — which, whatever angle you look at it from, is all-important to mainland Gen Zs.


Consumer Insights