No longer aspirational: A case study of young creative workers in Hong Kong who quit

Yvette Lok Yee Wong*, Yiu Fai Chow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


While many young creative workers are braving precaritization presumably with the drive of aspiration, this article focuses on the other end of their career path: disillusionment. Informed by the experiences of five self-proclaimed wenyi qingnian – loosely translated as cultural youth – in Hong Kong, this article tracks their aspirations which kept them hoping and going till they were disillusioned and decided to quit. Drawing together two lines of research – on precarity and on failure – our study fills in a gap of the scholarship on creative work and workers that is dominated by concerns with precarity and related abuses. We attend not only to the abuse, exploitation and precarity of creative work, but to a more open understanding of how and why young creative practitioners leave. We do so with an unusual deployment of longitudinal inquiry that does not only concern itself with struggles of creative workers but also with the termination of such struggles. We observe four dimensions of failure: their increasingly precarious way of life; their disillusionment with creativity; the urgency posed by their ‘ageing’; and the specific local political situation. As transpired, only one factor is immediately related to precarity. This article argues to include ‘failure’ as a significant phase of creative work, that warrants further investigation and may open up more understanding on precarity, or in general, creative work and workers. While precarity is dominantly defined in economic and market-related terms – with good reasons – we see the need to loosen it up to acknowledge more aspects of precarity and experiences of creative work. This article is part of the Special Issue Creative Labour in East Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-451
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Media and China
Issue number4
Early online date28 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Cultural Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Aspirations
  • creative workers
  • failure
  • Hong Kong wenyi qingnian
  • precarity


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