A 45-year-old middle-class fall, how many people fall into the middle-income trap

A 45-year-old middle-class fall, how many people fall into the middle-income trap

People are always in the "cycle" of size and size, we must not only understand the "cycle", face the "cycle", but also learn how to give up and persist under the "cycle".

Glacier think tank researcher 丨 Wei Yingjie

Polar Day Studio posted an interview "When a 45-year-old middle-aged man re-looks for a job" in the past two days, which provides a very detailed sample and makes people see a certain trend.

The protagonist in the interview is pseudonym Wei Peng, and the coordinates are also in Hangzhou. However, due to the different industries, the story he tells is both familiar and unfamiliar to me.

This true story tells the difficult situation for a middle-aged man to re-employ. According to the timeline of the report, Wei Peng is a post-70s generation, came to Hangzhou after graduating from university in 2000, worked hard for more than ten years, became the general manager of a home furnishing branch, with an annual salary of 800,000 yuan, and hundreds of people under management. At the age of 35, he bought a new BMW and became a new middle-class with a house and a car. There is not just one, but 2 houses. It can be described as a proud spring breeze.

But now, at the age of 45, he has no formal job and has applied for part-time jobs at KFC, Pizza Hut, IKEA, and Starbucks, but failed. In the report, he also looked for jobs in insurance companies, financial companies, etc., and for some well-known reasons, he could not work on his own.

For a while, Wei Peng's relatively stable part-time job was to work as an arrow pipe and pick flowers in a flower shop, with an hourly salary of 12.5 yuan.

Just such a job, there are still people rushing to do it. "The second time I went to the flower shop, I entered the door 8 part-time jobs, which is 6 more than the last time." When I saw this sentence in the report, I couldn't help but laugh, but after laughing, I felt an endless chill.


From the story itself, as a middle-class with a house and a car and an annual salary of nearly one million, he has now been reduced to working part-time in a flower shop, which is of course a fall of class identity.

But all this happens almost entirely not caused by the narrator himself.

You can't blame Wei Peng for being too old, after all, a person can't choose his birth date; You can't blame Wei Peng for not working hard enough, he has already worked part-time in the flower shop and does not dislike it, which in itself can explain the problem. He is not in debt, or eat, drink and gamble, to get to what he is today.

In fact, among his peers, he is good enough. His two properties, one of which is rented just enough to offset the loan of the other, the family is not in debt, the family is in good health... If it weren't for the fact that you couldn't find a job, this would simply be the legendary "good years".

Nor is it an issue of age discrimination in the workplace. Age discrimination has always existed, each company will hire according to its own needs, and everyone can only apply for jobs according to their own conditions. This is the reality of society today, and you can say it's not right to do it, but no one can change that reality.

What's the problem?

The biggest problem is that the industry that Wei Peng has been working in since graduation, the home furnishing industry, which is highly related to real estate, collapsed overnight. The downturn in the home furnishing industry is related to the real estate industry cycle, which in turn is completely in tune with Wei Peng's life trajectory.

His personal career benefited from the rapid development of the real estate industry in those years. He sighed that the home furnishing industry at that time was purely the same as picking up money. By the time he started his business in 2015, the industry still showed no signs of decay.

A 45-year-old middle-class fall, how many people fall into the middle-income trap

Figure/Figureworm Creative

However, since 2017, the real estate industry has suddenly changed its face, and the entire industry and its related home furnishing industry have deteriorated day by day. According to him, "the flow of people has basically disappeared."

This kind of industry-wide change is difficult to break free from by individual efforts alone. It's like tourism during the pandemic, no matter how competent the tour guide is, there is no place to play. This means that Wei Peng has accumulated more than ten or twenty years of experience in the industry, and under the new social conditions, all of them have been zeroed.

It stands to reason that to do his job, it is no longer suitable for part-time work, and a better way out is to start his own business. However, the entire industry withers, and to pounce on it again is tantamount to self-destruction. That's why he'd rather work part-time than start a business again. Working part-time, you can earn a dollar is a dollar, and starting a business again may not even guarantee the existing wealth accumulation.

This is Wei Peng's greatest sadness. This can't help but remind people of a sentence in "The Three-Body Problem": What does it have to do with you to destroy you?

Wei Peng's career is successful because he caught the rushing train of real estate, and Wei Peng's "fall" is because the industry is no longer galloping.

The myth of real estate is over, but what weighs on Wei Peng and his peers is a heavy mountain.


Wei Peng's second tragedy is that, like most middle-class people, his assets are trapped in real estate.

When he reaches middle age and owns two apartments in a new first-tier city, one of which is full, Wei Peng's asset structure has been better than most middle-class and ranks among the high-class middle class. However, in addition to the house and car, his cash deposit should be far from enough for him to choose to "lie flat". If he does not work and has no source of income for many years, he will face the dilemma of not being able to make ends meet.

Not only that, the value of the house is not constant, if the house depreciates further, his net worth will also shrink significantly. Therefore, although you are among the high-class middle class, if you only own fixed assets such as real estate, this level of status is difficult to maintain for a long time.

Wei Peng is like this, let alone other middle class. Some urban middle class may not even have a house, but only in salary income can benchmark the middle class, and some middle class, have a house, but still carry a mortgage, car loan, according to the net value, I am afraid it is just a pseudo middle class.

The point is whether the way of working and income levels that maintain middle-class identity will change dramatically. Wei Peng's home furnishing industry has suffered a devastating blow from the epidemic and the industry cycle. This can be a bit peculiar. However, this in itself also shows the fragility of the status of the middle class itself. If your industry collapses and you reach middle age, the choice will be very tight.

Of course, this depends on the probability of the industry collapsing. In a normal society, the probability of industry collapse and systemic crisis is not so frequent, so it is not so difficult for practitioners to survive the winter. However, you also know that in the past few years, due to the epidemic, the international situation and other factors, this probability has increased.

A 45-year-old middle-class fall, how many people fall into the middle-income trap

Figure/Glacier Gallery

In the past, there was a concept called the "middle-income trap", which refers to the long-term economic stagnation of a country after developing from the low-income stage to the middle-income stage due to the loss of labor cost advantages and other reasons. In fact, this definition also applies to the development of the individual.

Part of the reason for a situation like Wei Peng's is that when he jumps into the middle class, the opportunity to move up is very difficult, and the risk of falling is very high.

If he wants to move upward, such as choosing to start his own business, the resources, opportunities and funds he needs are completely different from working in a company. In a company, even senior executives are only responsible for a part of the overall operation, and if you start your own business, you need to take care of all aspects. In other words, he faces a completely different competitive environment and has to bear various consequences such as entrepreneurial failure.

Therefore, regardless of the industry boom factors, the upward mobility opportunities of the middle class are themselves very scarce, and if they are not very determined and courageous, they often choose to keep the success rather than "enter the pit".

I also have many friends around me, who are middle-aged, have a house and a car, have a little savings, and are still energetic, but they either become "flexible workers" or can only become "continuous unemployed". Because, the opportunity that belongs to them is suddenly gone.

This is the "middle-income trap" that belongs to the individual.


I read this interview several times at Extreme Day Studio, and I feel very concerned. Actually, similar articles have been read quite a bit. Many reports attribute this to the age crisis, which is wrong. The more critical issue is the loss of opportunity.

Wei Peng is a post-70s generation like me, and I am a little older than him. The post-70s generation used to be said to be the "transitional generation" with no sense of existence, and now some people say that it is the "lucky generation", and the good nodes of each era have not stepped on the void.

When we were young, because of the development of the small commodity economy, society basically bid farewell to the era of serious material scarcity.

When I was studying, I was not as "rolled" as the later children, I was on the doorstep of elementary school, I went by bicycle in middle school, and when I took the college entrance examination, my parents didn't even know the exam time, let alone wear a cheongsam and pull a banner to the test center to cheer.

After joining the work, I feel that everything is possible, and where there is a will, there is a way. When it comes time to get married and buy a house, the house price is not so high, as long as it is time to shoot, it will basically not fall.


But today, the post-70s generation has entered middle age, the situation at home and abroad has changed, globalization is facing a receding tide, and everything solid seems to be disappearing.

A 45-year-old middle-class fall, how many people fall into the middle-income trap

Figure/Figureworm Creative

The logic of society has changed, and so has the thinking of individuals. From this point of view, I admire Wei Peng's mentality and determination. Since this is already the case, if individuals do not have the ability to change the overall situation, they may as well deal with it calmly, they should deliver takeaways, and they should go to the flower shop to arrange flowers, and they can also survive.

To put it in a big way, human beings themselves are an accident, and if it were not for the "interglacial period", human beings would not have the development of today's civilization. To a small extent, no matter what the external factors are, the rise and fall of the industry, the rise and fall of fate, itself also has internal logic.

People are always in the "cycle" of size and size, we must not only understand the "cycle", face the "cycle", but also learn how to give up and persist under the "cycle".