Catch Phrase | 打工人(dǎgōngrén)

Writer: Debra Li  |  Editor: Stephanie Yang  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2020-11-13


“打” means “to hit,” “工” is short for “工作,” which means “a job,” and “人” means “a person.” Originally used as a verb in spoken language in Hong Kong, “打工” means “to get employed for a paid job.” In the 1980s, the term became popular in Guangdong and other South China provinces with the arrival of factories opened by Hong Kong bosses, with its meaning delicately changed to “being hired for a temporary labor job that doesn’t require much skill and doesn’t pay well either.” Derivatives like “打工仔” (dǎgōngzǎi, factory boy) and “打工妹” (dǎgōngmèi, factory girl) came into being. An interesting term is “打工皇帝” (dǎgōng huángdì, literally: working emperor), which is used to describe professional managers who are hired by the board to act as CEOs and other top corporate officials, and earn millions in salaries each year. The popular new term “打工人” is neutral and simply means “employee.”


A: 最近你的股票怎么样?

Zuìjìn nǐ de gǔpiào zěnmeyàng?

How are your stocks doing lately?

B: 跌了不少。

Diē le bùshǎo。

The prices nosedived quite a bit.

A: 只有一种投资是只赚不赔的,那就是打工。努力吧,打工人!

Zhī yǒu yīzhǒng tóuzī shì zhǐzhuàn bùpéi de,nà jiùshì dǎgōng。 Nǔlì ba,dǎgōngrén!

The only “investment” that guarantees profits and not loss is getting employed. Work hard, man!