Nav: Home

China's one-child generation not so selfish after all

December 18, 2017

Every generation has a tendency to despair at the next one's perceived shortcomings, and Chinese society is no different in this regard. The "Little Emperor" generation - those born during China's strict one-child policy, have been judged by many weary elders as spoilt and tantrum prone due to the overwhelming attention bestowed on them by doting families.

However, new research from Hiroshima University's Associate Professor Yoshihiko Kadoya suggests that - in the workplace at least - the one-child generation is just as cooperative as preceding generations of Chinese workers.

The study, the first to compare workplace cooperativeness between those born before 1979 when the one-child policy was implemented, and the one-child generation increasingly working alongside them, thus challenges earlier predictions that this pampered cohort would be the most self-centred in China's history - resulting in the overturning of millennia-old Chinese ethics of morality and order.

Dr. Kadoya from HU's Department of Economics based his findings on face-to-face interviews, conducted by Osaka University, with workers aged 20-70-years-old in six major Chinese cities. Interviewees were asked to respond to the statement, "At work, I should follow the opinion of the group".

The average score of "willingness to cooperate" in the workplace, based on responses, was found to be 3.86 on a five-point scale, where one indicated complete disagreement and five indicated complete agreement - showing that Chinese workers as a whole are seemingly very cooperative.

When the results were broken down into generations, workers born before the one-child policy were found to have a cooperativeness score of 3.89 - and those born during the policies implementation a score of 3.8, showing no real difference in willingness to pull one's own weight in the workplace.

To check the robustness of these results an alternative measure of cooperativeness took into account personality traits and also found no discernible difference between the two generations.

When Dr. Kadoya compared these findings with an international survey asking participants in the USA and Japan to respond to the same statement, the "little emperor" generation was also found to be significantly more cooperative than their overseas peers.

Interestingly, while previous research suggested that the one-child generation is in fact more self-centered and individualistic in their private lives than their for-bearers, this independent streak appears to be discarded at the workplace door.

Dr. Kadoya puts this dichotomy in character down to China's Confucian heritage - a belief system that requires workers to be loyal to their employers, and which considers work the pivot on which life revolves.

Further, he believes this study - published in the Journal of the Asia-Pacific Economy - has real implications for the management of human resources in Chinese workplaces,

"Management of workplace diversity and the promotion of a cooperative work culture is important if organizations are to achieve their objectives. Our study suggests that increasing the share of one-child generation workers in a given workforce is not going to negatively affect cooperation amongst workers - therefore companies should not be put off giving "little emperors" a chance to prove themselves on the office or factory floor".

Hiroshima University

Related Research Articles:

More Research News and Research Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at