Chinese tech companies are slashing jobs , but there seems to be little resistance from the affected workers, apart from sporadic complaints scattered around social media. It is unlikely because these employees left happily. Many actually said they were notified of their dismissal on short notice, and were given take-it-or-leave-it severance packages with little to no room for negotiation. Most companies have branded their job cuts as business restructures or optimisations, and few have been willing to disclose the number of departures and other specifics. In an attempt to portray the terminations in a better light, some companies even congratulated dismissed employees on their “graduations ”. A stifled tech sector is bad for everyone in China The silence of Chinese tech workers towards the sizeable lay-offs did not stem from gratitude, but rather the lack of collective bargaining power. From the early 2000s until recently, demand for skilled talent had surged as China’s tech sector quickly expanded. Labour protection was seen as unnecessary, as firms offered generous pay and promising career paths to entice the best and brightest among the country’s ambitious young people. For well-educated tech workers, the termination of one employment contract often quickly led to a new and better one. But the situation has started to change in the last couple of years, as the roaring days in China’s tech industry drew to a halt. Excessive work hours and pressure became routine, as the gruelling “996” schedule – nine hours a day, six days a week – took hold. In extreme cases, overworked employees in their 20s or 30s ended up in hospitals or even died. Beijing’s crackdown on the tech sector dealt another heavy blow. Headcount vanished across the industry, while lay-offs have become commonplace. Those who have been let go, especially workers aged 35 or above , often find it hard to get a new job, and even if they manage to find one, the pay is often significantly lower than before. ‘The 35 midlife crisis’: hitting China’s age barrier in Big Tech As tech employment is becoming increasingly common, it might be a good idea to consider forming unions to better protect labour rights. While China does not allow independent trade unions, perhaps the creation of ones that are at least not influenced by corporate management would make a difference. In the United States, a team of Amazon.com workers at a New York warehouse recently won an employee vote to form a trade union, the first at the company. The economic and political environment in China is different, but the demand for better protection against “optimisations” and “graduations” is just as real for the country’s tech workers.