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'I can't afford the nice bracelet I promised my girlfriend'

SAD stories are common on Wall street and also in China where financial companies are feeling the downturn. Employees in foreign-invested companies definitely feel the pinch of reduced capital.

William Tao, 24, has worked in a Fortune 500 firm for nearly one year - he declines to identify it because the situation is sensitive.

When he graduated from university last year and got a job offer, many peers were envious of his high salary, steady pay increases and upward career path. He earns 5,500 yuan (US$806) per month, before taxes.

He pinned all his hopes on a secure job, and he's lucky he still has a position. But one year on, the bloom is gone and he worries about his future every day.

"Everything seems uncertain to me. How long can I stay here? Can I still advance steadily on my planned career path," Tao asks helplessly.

Financial companies were hard hit as their clients reduced spending. Most IPO projects, which used to be a major business and income source, have been suspended in the sluggish market. Firms like Tao's have rolled out a series of measures to reduce costs.

Employees, in what was a 2,000-employee firm, are now asked to take voluntary leave, with reduced or no pay, for 20 to 40 working days. Many contracts were not renewed.

The no-pay and low-pay leaves mean the office is quiet. As many as 70 percent of the staff are at home at a given time. Those remaining are extremely diligent in hopes that good performance can save their jobs, says Tao.

He himself lost more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,466) in salary as a result of taking leave.

"I had to cancel my plan to buy a computer and delayed my travel plans," says Tao.

"And I feel really bad I cannot afford the nice bracelet I promised my girlfriend as a birthday present. She must be disappointed."

The working environment is gloomy.

A member of Tao's team, a good friend, left the company several days ago for a more stable position in a retail company.

"I feel even lonelier and more confused these days," says Tao. "Where will I end up and where is my future?"


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