May 25, 2024

Semafor Signals

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Insights from Financial Journalist Li Chochai, Vizion Zine

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Chinese parents are pulling their children from once-integral extracurricular activities like piano classes and swimming lessons as wages remain stagnant and economic woes shake the middle class.

At least 30% of piano schools had closed by the end of 2022, and the number is expected to increase, ThinkChina reported. But a government policy that cracked down on after-school classes in an effort to lessen homework has also led to the decline of extracurricular lessons. Schools have been ordered to stay open late, so working parents who had previously opted for after-school lessons to keep children occupied can now simply leave them at school.

However, a new generation of young adults are now seeking new opportunities to enrich their lives outside the mundane work hours, keeping the market for private classes alive.

SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today’s biggest stories.

Piano sales in China dry up

Source:  Financial journalist Li Chochai

China’s two biggest piano companies are experiencing record losses as families move away from the hobby. In 2023, Pearl River’s net profit plummeted by 90% and Hailun’s profits dropped by nearly 25%, according to company documents obtained by Chinese financial journalist Li Chochai. Pianos became a status symbol of the growing middle class during China’s globalization in the 1980s, “equivalent to holding a ticket to the upper class,” Li wrote. The government previously incentivized students to learn piano by allocating “admission points” to college applicants who were trained to play the instrument. But after the government cut the admission scheme in 2018, and following China’s post-COVID economic downturn, families no longer saw the need to invest in pianos and lessons.

Night classes for young adults are the new craze

Source:  Vision Zine

While fewer middle class families are enrolling in extracurriculars, employed young adults in China are flocking to night classes for traditional dance, sewing, and martial arts. Searches for “night school” on business-focused apps Meituan and Dianping increased by 980% between 2022 and 2023, according to lifestyle news blog Vizion Zine. For many young adults who were forced into admission-focused extracurriculars like piano, these hobby classes “make up for childhood regrets,” the blog wrote. However, the blog notes that night school has become a phenomenon exclusive to well-paid young adults, while those with lower salaries opt for more mainstream classes such as foreign languages and computer programming to build up their resumes.

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