How am I supposed to put "铁饭碗" in simple words, and not a paragraph worth of explanation? I can't seem to find suitable adjectives or nouns to concisely interpret the implication of "铁饭碗" (Suppose to refer to jobs that "won't get laid off")。

4 Answers 4


I think translating 铁饭碗 as "guaranteed lifetime employment" gets the point across quite well. There's also a phrase, "cradle-to-grave socialism" -- it's a little more political than guaranteed lifetime employment, but it accurately reflects the use of the word in Chinese history.

Neither phrase has the English resonance of the Chinese original, but I think both are acceptable choices if you are seeking a short explanation.


Your best bet is to use the translation "Iron Rice Bowl". There is no direct English equivalent, and (according to Wikipedia) there is a precedent for using the phrase in English.

Plus it's always great to expand English :)


In the Mafia we'd say you are a "Made Man", in other words, "Set for life".


Guarantees in terms of job-security, or residency are usually referred to as tenure so I'm going to suggest "Life tenure". Source

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.