The burgeoning e-sports industry is propelled by enthusiasts who endure low pay and long hours because of personal interest in the segment, according to a recent survey of e-sports workers.

More than three-fourths of those working in the Chinese e-sports industry work are personally interested in the sector, though close to 60% of them make less than RMB 100,000 (around $14,500) a year, according to a recent survey released by Tencent E-sports on Saturday which interviewed 626 individuals working in the industry.

The average annual salary in the broader tech industry was RMB 147,678 (around $21,423) in 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

More than half of surveyed e-sports insiders have worked in the industry for fewer than three years, and around 65% of them hold non-management positions in their companies. The most prevalent roles among those surveyed are technical support, tournament operations, and general management.

The industry does not have a high barrier of entry in terms of educational background, though more than 70% of those working in e-sports have bachelor’s degree or above. However, only 17% of them said they joined the industry because of related majors in university.

China said in January that it would recognize online gaming as an official profession, potentially easing the way for a range of job-related considerations like obtaining visas for overseas travel or retaining legal representation in conflicts, according to industry publication

The fast growth of the e-sport industry enabled more than 40% of interviewees to receive raises in the past year. In relation to this, more than half of them said that they are satisfied with their current jobs.

Similar to other segments of the tech industry, work hours in e-sports are also long. Three-fourths of survey participants with jobs in e-sports work for more than 40 hours per week. Among them, 20% work for over 60 hours a week.

The survey also interviewed 3,100 industry outsiders, all under the age of 40. Among these respondents, desire to join the e-sports industry is low, with just 17% of university students and 13% of interviewees in other sectors saying they want to join the e-sports industry. As a consequence, issues involving the lack of management talent and marketing personnel, which more than half of all surveyed industry insiders pointed out, will likely to continue.

The relative unpopularity could have something to do with the public’s expectations of salary in the industry. More than 60% of interviewees working in other sectors expect first-time entrants to earn less than RMB 7,000 a month in e-sports.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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