China youth hostels refuse to serve customers aged 35 and above

Age may be "just" a number for the world, but in China, for those over 35, it can become the basis for "discrimination" and rejection from jobs and even hostels.

Recently, taking to Xiaohongshu, a social media platform that has been described as "China's answer to Instagram" a consumer complained about hostels rejecting bookings from those in their late 30s. This has sparked a debate on China's "35-year-old crisis", with some labelling this discrimination towards a particular age demographic. However, others are of the opinion that this is justified. Here's all you need to know.

A dearth of hostels

In a now-viral post, a user complained that many youth hostels in the Chinese capital Beijing are refusing accommodation to customers over 35 years of age. The user alleged that he faced quite a struggle looking for hostels without such restrictions.

Apparently, he was informed of the age restriction over the phone and hostel owners defended this constraint, citing safety concerns.

He claims that the hostel owner told him that "it is unsafe for older people to get in and out of bed and is prone to accidents."

In frustration, the user asked netizens, "I am getting close (to 35 years old) but I can still do 50 pushups, run five kilometres, and jump over a two-meter wall. What's the danger?"

Safety, peace and more

Sixth Tone, which does extensive coverage of all things China, reports that a search across major online travel-based platforms reveals that many youth hostels in Beijing now impose an age restriction.

Reportedly, many of them have set the age requirement between 18 and 40 years. Additionally, some have raised this restriction and cater to people till the ages of 45 to 50, but many have drawn the line at 35 years.

And it's not just the capital Beijing. Similar restrictions are in place in other major Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Guangzhou.

Responding to a booking request by Sixth Tone posing as a middle-aged guest, one Beijing hotel said that the reason for their 35-year age restriction is precautionary. They claimed that they were trying to avoid conflicts between their young guests and the "old" ones and that the schedules, and living habits of the two broad age groups are different.

Another hostel, which has set the age restriction lower at 30 years, said this was done as a safety measure.

"We only offer bunk beds and don’t host elderly guests in general since we are a youth hostel," said a member of the staff, revealing that in the past, a 50-year-old guest had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment after falling off a bunk bed.

Discrimination or not

On Weibo, the Chinese alternative to Twitter, the age limit has led to a discussion of sorts. While many mocked the practice, calling it discrimination, others say that the practice was normal since most hostels cater to the younger demographic.

One user commented, "Such opportunities should be left for youngsters to experience life."

However, another user was quick to point out that, "After being excluded from applying for jobs at public and private companies, now people above 35 have been abandoned by hostels too."

Talking to local news publication Baidu, the user behind the viral social media post which helped shine the limelight on this issue, says that staying in a youth hostel is not only cheaper but also helps you make friends with people with similar interests.

Fu Jian, a lawyer at Henan-based Zejin Law Firm, says that age restrictions are not illegal, but that "operators should inform customers of such conditions in advance to prevent unnecessary disputes."

China's '35-year-old' crisis

In China, there is apparently a long-standing bias towards those over 35 years of age. As per Sixth Tone, in the nation, this particular demographic faces an increasingly long list of life pressures, this predicament has now come to be known as the "35-year-old" crisis.

Those over 35 years shoulder familial burdens while battling a bleak job market. Reportedly, in China, more and more public and private companies are now setting 35 years as the maximum age for new hires. So, for the older youth, the competition is so much tougher.

A 2022 survey conducted by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions revealed that among individuals aged between 35 and 39, 54 per cent were worried about losing their job  — the highest percentage among all age groups surveyed. Additionally, 71 per cent of respondents in this age group expressed concerns about their job skills becoming outdated.



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