Sudden death of woman postgraduate from overwork alarms Shanghai white collars

| April 26th, 2011

By Chen Tingting, China News of Shanghai, 16th, April, Translated by Jenny Jiang


Pan Jie, 25-year-old white-collar died from overwork at Price Waterhouse Coopers in China

Pan Jie, an energetic young lady, graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University with a master’s degree, had been an envy of many. She had a well-paid job at one of the four famous auditing companies, Price Waterhouse Coopers in China, 25 years old with a bright future. But, the delicate flower withered overnight. She died suddenly from viral encephalitis on 10th, April.

Although the reason of her death has been reported as simple viral encephalitis, it has become a heated topic among people. Many netizens couldn’t accept this simple reason, but suspected that fatigue after the continuous overwork and delay in treatment of the disease caused her death.

Some famous foreign companies in China, including PwC, which Pan Jie used to work at, have been put on top of the criticizing list. Many netizens accused them of over laboring employees, no annual leave, and inhumane life on the Pyramid.

Actually, death from overwork is not a fresh word at all, and Pan Jie, the young lady, is not the first employee who has died from being overworked in this city. But many other white collars in Shanghai strike the alarm to warn themselves about their jobs as they are mourning this excellent maiden at her blooming season. They begin to reconsider the true meaning of life and hard-to-reach balance between salary and health.

There is a rhetorical question that has been forwarding by many net citizens. It shouts out their thoughts. “What kind of job is worth for us to spend 18 hours a day, sitting at the table humbly, staring at the cold figures on Excel, and devote our young life and hope from our families without any valuable purpose?”

Since Shanghai, the prosperous metropolitan city has opened its port, sparing no efforts to work has long been the highest praise for employees. Especially in the current pressure of skyscraping house price and consumption level in China, entering famous enterprises with considerable salary is the dream of many young people in the cities.

“Regardless that high salary is directly related to intense extra work, most of the white collars will still go ahead.” Liao Jingwen, who worked two years at some well-known auditing company told the reporter. Under the high pressure of work, her mere hope was to see the sunset when she finished a day’s work. She had to go back home in the dark because many projects needed extra time.

Chen Ling, who is working in a consulting company, changed her MSN message status to “Job or life? Which should I choose?” This elite white collar, nick-named “sky-rider” by her friends, has few breaks in the whole year. “I haven’t enjoyed an annual leave in the past two years due to projects one after another.” The 28-year-old white collar said, “Hearing about Pan Jie’s case, I’m afraid that I might be the next.”

After Pan Jie’s death, a famous media organization launched a survey about overtime work. Unto the report was published, the amount of people who experience frequent overtime work reaches 1,142, which accounts for 54.93% of all the 2,079 participants, and among them, 73.6% are overworked.

Pan Xiao, who is a sales chief inspector and frequently suffering from overtime work at Wade Foreign Trade Company, downloaded articles, such as “Health Care in the Office”, “How to Supplement Nutrition for Officers”, to read thoroughly and sent them to his subordinates. Although overtime work exists inevitably in the fast developing country, it is so big a loss to devote our lives to it. White collars hope to find a balance between health and work.

20 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Curren$y says:

    China has all these university graduates looking for work and then it has all these people working themselves to death. Why not just hire more people to share the workload? Oh, right, it’s China.

    • Xino says:


      it’s fucking stupid man!

      give one 1 to hug all the job and work load!

      what some stores are doing now in UK is there are 4 hours jobs.
      They hire many workers to do 4 hour job
      this is good and bad.

      The good is that it gives everyone a job, decency to earn money
      The bad is that people in need of money are limited to 4 hour.
      However this is where hardwork comes in, and helps separate the lazy from the hardworkers.
      People who wants to have more hours will work harder so manager can give them more hours, people who are lazy will just come to work, do their day job and go home paid.

      And the ironic thing about this is that there isn’t any jobs now, recession fucked up people man

  2. Matt says:

    “Although the reason of her death has been reported as simple viral encephalitis, it has become a heated topic among people. Many netizens couldn’t accept this simple reason, but suspected that fatigue after the continuous overwork and delay in treatment of the disease caused her death. ”

    Love it. Despite having any evidence or data, people simply believe purely because it sounds more sensational . Next you’ll be telling me that the year in which I was born has an effect on my personality.

    The girl died of a viral infection. Nothing to see here, get back to work.

    • Crystal says:

      How about the weakened immune system?

    • Gary says:

      “The girl died of a viral infection. Nothing to see here, get back to work.”

      Encephalitis is pretty serious and requires symptomatic treatment. People who aren’t treated have a 50/50 chance of death. If you take it easy and are treated for the symptoms, you have a decent chance of recovering. The implication in this story is that this young lady felt she felt too much pressure to not take off time from work for the lengthy treatment or even take time to be diagnosed.

      • ChasL says:

        Sick people don’t see doctor die all over the world, like that Falung Gong lady in US died form diabetes complication.

      • Matt says:

        “But, the delicate flower withered overnight. She died suddenly from viral encephalitis on 10th, April.”

        Gary, what you are saying makes sense — but the above sentence implies a sudden, rapid deterioration, and not ignoring symptoms over time.

        This is subject to massive supposition. The conclusion being reached — that overwork or project pressures were complicit in her death is not evidenced (certainly not in this article). Just because it sounds like it may be correct does NOT make it correct.

        It is a fair bet that the sudden death of this poor girl was perhaps an unavoidable tragedy. Perhaps not. But there is an awful lot of conjecture in this article along the lines “we are all working so hard that we will DIE” – but no-one has put any data forward. Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence.

  3. pug_ster says:

    The problem is that western companies like PWC who seem to allow this kind of policies to work people to death.

    • Two things:

      1) If you think it’s just or even mostly Western companies overworking Chinese workers, you’re clearly not part of the Chinese working class in a Chinese company, nor are you close with anyone who is. Western companies (or Chinese companies doing outsourcing for Western companies) just get more scrutiny and less likelihood of tragic stories being erased.

      2) I do think that companies–including Western ones–are complicit in ridiculous exploitation of Chinese workers’. The problem is that these workers are vulnerable to such exploitation precisely because the Chinese government is also complicit, and frankly even these workers wouldn’t be eager to have those outsourced jobs disappear due to application of more humane working conditions.

      Earning significant salaries in 2011 may be considerably safer than eras past, but this article reminds us that getting ahead in the rat race does entail health risks. Perhaps the practice of outsourcing should come with a surgeon general’s warning.

  4. Dean says:

    Yes of course is it only those evil foreign companies. If you work for a Chinese company is it all good. This is an obvious smear job once again. It is a well know fact that foreign companies are held to a higher standard than local companies in China. Chinese companies have the benefit of “Chinese characteristics” … and well all know that does not benefit the working class

  5. Ray says:

    If you work for a financial institution in any serious capacity. U will encounter the same overtime work levels regardless of geography. People earn 6 figures but work twice as many hours as a regular 9 to 5. Its the life u choose. Deal with it.

  6. Xino says:

    18 hours a day!?

    that is seriously fucked up and over worked man!

    my longest hour I’ve ever worked was 13 hour. and it was only for 1 day man.

    seriously man overworking shouldn’t be a problem man, if you love doing your job then you shouldn’t have problems with working constant overtime.

    Like game developers, they work overtime to meet deadlines, if you love your job and being a game maker then you shouldn’t have a problem working overtime, because doing this is like trying to beat the challenge. However if you are tired of the overtime and complaining then you are starting to loose the passion for the job.

    I guess she hates the job man

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