Young and alone face period of adjustment

There has been an increase in the number of so-called "empty-nest" youths in China over the years.

"Empty nest" refers to the feeling of loneliness and grief among parents after their children leave home. But this syndrome is slowly catching up among youngsters too, who live alone, far away from their hometown and families. 

Most youngsters work in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. 

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of "empty-nest" youths in China. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that 12.45 percent of households were inhabited by one person in 2015. The figure in 2008 was 8.3 percent. 

A survey of 2,000 Internet users found that lack of emotional support and bad living conditions are the two biggest problems affecting "empty-nest" youth. On the other hand, some young people enjoy living alone that gives them the feeling of being free instead of feeling lonely. 

Shine photographer Jiang Xiaowei trains his lens on these young "empty-nesters."

Mandy Wu: We are always alone in life

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Mandy Wu, who hails from Tianzhou City in Jiangsu Province, has a bit of fun pushing a shopping cart at a furniture store. Mandy has been living in Shanghai for over a year and works as an IT specialist in a foreign company. She shares an apartment with another girl and plans to move out into her own apartment next month. "Shanghai always gives me a lot of different knowledge, vision and experience from time to time," says Mandy. "I never think about leaving Shanghai."

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Mandy sits at a sample room in a furniture store. Mandy likes reading, painting, calligraphy and running in her spare time. She says her hobbies give her inner peace. “I never feel that living alone is wrong,” she says. “I think we are always alone in life, despite family and friends. Most of the time, we are occupied by ourselves.”

Daisy Zhai: Having fun while enjoying independence 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Zhai was born in Jiangsu Province and lives in a youth community apartment in the Pudong New Area. The rent isn’t particularly cheap, but the location does make it easier to form a social life and make friends. After finishing her studies abroad six months ago, Zhai came to Shanghai, where she works as an assistant college professor. She says the city offers a good platform for graduates like her. 


Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

After work, she often does live streaming broadcasts. “Living alone means you have to stay happy even during tough times,” she says. “Everyone loves companionship, but not everyone is lucky enough to meet the right soulmate at the right time. So people living alone need to learn how to entertain ourselves and be independent.”

Zhang Wenzhou: I'm used to living alone

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Zhang Wenzhou, from Anhui Province, takes orders on a take-away app on the North Sichuan Road Bridge in Hongkou District. Usually he works until late into the evening. For each order he handles, he earns less than 10 yuan (US$1.47). Zhang has been making a living by doing odd jobs for two years since coming to Shanghai. He calls his parents back home once every month. “I’m used to living alone, but you know, having a family is important to me,” says Zhang. “Because of my job, I hardly have time to socialize and meet girls. I have tried blind dates several times, but they didn’t work out. Maybe next time I will be lucky.”

Linda Liu: Living alone is full of possibilities 

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Linda Liu, from Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province, plays with a stray cat she calls "Black Spider." The cat was adopted by her roommate. Linda has been living in Shanghai for almost a decade since graduation. As a financial reporter with a TV channel, she says living alone doesn’t make her anxious because there is always something interesting to do or something new to learn.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Linda loves to cook in her spare time. "Living alone feels free, is enriching, positive and full of possibilities," Linda says. "Though sometimes I wish I had a family life, I will go with the flow."

Xiang Xing: Dealing with doubts and confusion  

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xiang Xing, from Chongqing City, stands outside Shanghai Railway Station. Xiang came to Shanghai alone after graduation one year ago. At that time she had only 600 yuan in her wallet. “I had no relatives or friends in Shanghai,” she says. “I didn’t know if I could find a job. Everything in my life was full of doubts and confusion.”She now works as a website editor and lives in workplace dormitory. She has even found a boyfriend. Her QQ website slogan is “live a better life.”

Read more about "empty-nesters": 

'Empty nesters' with little to chirp about

Social phenomena in China often create commercial opportunities, and "empty nesters" are no exception. In Shanghai and other large cities, some apartment complexes tailor themselves to young, unattached people. Mofang Apartment in Shanghai is one of them. 

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