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Cast of characters: Only child Catharine

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By Cecilia Chen

Economic pressure: How to support parents in a future of aging China

Twenty-five-year-old Catharine Wang handles claims at an American shipping logistics firm in Shanghai. She makes $7,000 a year — about the median income in urban China. But she moans her salary’s too low, and has been looking for a better job ever since I met her. She told me she feels big economic pressure.

“My dad bought me an apartment in Shanghai. If not, there’s no way I could live a comfortable life on this salary. But how can I financially support my parents down the road?”

Wang says: “I can’t even afford their medical treatment if anything happens to them. Even if I get married, we can’t afford it, because my husband is likely to be the only child in his family, too. We would still be taking care of two parents each.”

Having it all

Work aside, Catharine also wants a social life, “time to hang out with my friends.” The job is not everything.

I asked her if she has any good friends at work. She replied “no way.” She said colleagues can never be friends. There are conflicts of interests among co-workers in the same office.

The parental expectation

When unpleasant things happen, Catharine doesn’t talk to her parents. She said they’re “weird.” They expect her at the age of 25 to be as successful as a 50-year-old, especially since they spent money for her to go to graduate school in England. So she’d rather talk with to her friends about everything including career, love, fashion, parents and gossip.

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