Wu Yue, who started at iQiyi in August and had just finished her probation period in November 2021, is confused about why her department, which was recruiting people three months before, was suddenly cut.
So was Zhao Xuanxi, who also worked for iQiyi in Beijing. She was planning a business trip in November when she was given her month’s notice. “That’s a cruel blow,” said Zhao, who had a packed work schedule in December. Zhao had worked for iQiyi for four years and her salary was raised more frequently than colleagues in the same post due to her performance. She told NewsChina that 33 percent of her department was cut this time, while in another department, 80 percent of the staff was let go.
As revealed by iQiyi employees on Maimai, it was the largest round of downsizing in iQiyi’s history, with across-the-board cuts of 20-40 percent in all departments. Nearly all staff in the research institute and gaming center were given notice. This information was confirmed by Zhao, who believes that iQiyi wants to cut costs because many of the laid-off staff were more experienced and with higher salaries and positions.
On December 1, 2021, when the scale of iQiyi’s layoffs was trending on Sina Weibo, Liu Hongtao, who worked for Baidu for over a year, read the news. He did not think it involved him, but the next day, his department held a meeting and announced job cuts. His was among the positions to go. After talking with his line manager, he took a holiday to have a good rest after this “stressful” year before leaving the company.
Liu was among the first batch to go. Then three other departments, including Baidu’s app, Baijiahao, a document database, and Baidu’s livestreaming platform, all laid off staff. His colleagues told him that people cried in the office. Most of the staff let go were like Liu: around 35 years old with mortgages and mouths to feed.
This wave of layoffs has aggravated the employment crisis of people over 35 in the tech sector. There has been implicit discrimination against people over 35 or even over 30 in internet companies that prefer to employ younger people. A survey by Maimai’s data research institute in 2021 shows that, among the 20 surveyed companies, the average age of employees is between 27 and 33. At nearly half of the new-generation internet companies like ByteDance, Didi Chuxing and Meituan, the average age was below 30. It is common knowledge that in internet companies, anyone who does not reach managerial level after 35 is likely to be “optimized” –a euphemism for being fired.
“I could feel the obvious discrimination after I turned 30. I don’t feel right when I submit a resume, I get this feeling of inferiority,” said Zhao Jun, a programmer who could not conceal his worry about the situation.
Liexian has been a long-term partner for companies like ByteDance, Meituan, Alibaba and Kuaishou. Founder Li Fei told NewsChina that in the past, the number of positions to be filled was always released following year-end reviews. But in 2021, Li Fei said his colleagues were frequently told that departments had no new positions to advertise. “Every company is crying about their difficulties,” Li said.
The tech sector’s rapid expansion appears to be a thing of the past as companies are squeezed by the tough new regulations.
Chen Jian, a software engineer for the gaming sector of a big internet company, said he got an internship in Tencent’s gaming department in March 2020 despite having no experience, because of the boom in gaming in the post-pandemic period. Five months later, when he tried to make his position permanent, Tencent had already raised the employment conditions. Li Fei said that many companies became much choosier about who they hire. “When growth slows, companies have to optimize their employment structure,” he said.
Chen has been paying attention to the impact of policy on the gaming industry and is considering jumping ship due to the precariousness of his position.