China’s young cohort of the Post-90s generation, which refer to those who were born in the 1990s, have been given all kinds of labels: open-minded, international, nationalistic, materialistic — just to name a few.

Now, people in China have come up with a new term “empty nest youth” to call out those single young people who live alone.

Taobao, China’s dominant online shopping website under Alibaba, released a data report on Wednesday to understand what the country’s 50 million “empty nest youth” are up to. The e-commerce giant retrieved data from its site and analyzed their consumers’ behaviors and relevant locations. Here’s what it found.

Most empty nest youth live far away from their hometowns, working in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Among them, males account for 64 percent, almost double the number of females. Location wise, Shenzhen comes first with about 3.07 million empty nest youth living in the city, while runner-up Beijing has about 3 million of those single lonely youngsters.

3.07 million empty nest youth live in Shenzhen, followed by Beijing and Guangzhou. Shanghai is ranked fourth. Photo from Taobao.
3.07 million empty nest youth live in Shenzhen, followed by Beijing and Guangzhou. Shanghai is ranked fourth. Photo from Taobao.

In China, online shoppers often mockingly call themselves “hands-chopping people,” meaning that they feel like chopping off their hands after buying too much online. And empty nest youth are part of this group too. They love to shop online late at night, mostly around 10 p.m., and are willing to spend about RMB 5,000 annually on Taobao, which is more or less how much they earn a month.

China’s young online shoppers are most active around 10 p.m. Photo from Taobao.
China’s young online shoppers are most active around 10 p.m. Photo from Taobao.

It’s fair to say that the amount they spend online may not seem much compared to other consumer groups, their credit ratings however are fairly nice. In average, they have a 655 Sesame Credit score – a credit rating system under Alibaba’s Ant Financial – which is high enough for them to receive a deposit waiver for bike-sharing apps like ofo.

The most frequently purchased items that empty nest youth buy online fall into the “top-up” service category, where they recharge the balance of their mobile phone accounts. Others include clothes, electronics and snacks. It did come as a surprise that “onsite or home services” were popular and ranked fifth in the most frequently purchased category. They often booked home services such as massage therapists, cleaners, or fresh produce delivery.

The products young shoppers purchase the most on Taobao. Photo from Taobao.
The products young shoppers purchase the most on Taobao. Photo from Taobao.

Here’s one more thing — music. By looking at music genres that millennials favor, we can get a sense of what they listen to. MayDay, a Taiwanese rock band formed in the late 1990s, win their hearts with the band’s uplifting music and its ability to capture the zeitgeist of youth.

(MayDay’s “What If We Had Never Met” MV)

While MayDay tops the list, singers from Hong Kong and Taiwan such as Eason Chen, Yoga Lin and Hebe Tien, who are famous for their soft pop songs, are popular among empty nest youth in China as well. Other singers they like include Adele, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5.

The most played song, however, is “Chengdu” written and sung by folk song singer Zhao Lei. The lyrics depict the life of a vagrant roving from one city to another, which is why the Chinese youth love it. They could relate to it.

(Zhao Lei’s “Chengdu” MV — made by a netizen)

For these young people, it is not merely a life choice to live alone, but more of a rite of passage. And this could lead to potential business opportunities. After all, according to this Taobao report, they are willing to spend a month of their salaries shopping online.

(Top photo from Baidu images)

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Timmy Shen
Timmy is a writer at AllChinaTech. He's passionate about photography, education, food and all things tech. He holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Write to him: timmy[at]allchinatech.com

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