Chinese idiom that when a man attains a high position, even his pets ascend to heaven with him ( 一人得道, 鸡犬升天 ), rings truth, still. The 1,300 years long imperial examination system had ended in 1905 but the thinking carries on. Getting a government job is coveted hence hard.
WSJ: Chinese Grads Still Eager to Nab Government Jobs
Nov 27, 2013 8:30 am HKT
The perks that come with being a civil servant in China may be shrinking, but the country’s recent college graduates appear to be no less eager to nab a coveted position among the government ranks.
The country’s national civil-servant exam, which kicked off Monday, saw a record 1.52 million candidates signed up to take the test, competing for 19,538 spots – or approximately 77 candidates for every available post – according to the state-run China News Service (in Chinese) . That’s higher than last year, when the ratio was 65 applicants for every post with 1.1 million students taking the exam.
That flood of interest comes despite an extensive anticorruption drive targeting everything from alcohol and mooncakes to fireworks and government-provided cars.
According to surveys, few college students today say they are ready to leave the safe shores of government work and “jump into the sea,” as the Chinese expression goes, to join startups or go into business for themselves, although many of their parents did just that in the booming 1990s. Two-thirds of Chinese graduates surveyed by Li Hongbin, a Tsinghua University economist who specializes in education, said they want to work either in the government or big state-owned firms, which are seen as recession-proof, rather than for private firms.
With such stiff competition for government jobs, many candidates fail to make the cut, only to return the next year to retake the tests in hopes of succeeding the second, or third or fourth, time around.
“My family has great hopes for me, sometimes I feel the pressure getting bigger, but I believe that as long as I try hard again, the future is bright,” one woman who said she was taking the exam for third time was quoted by Sina as saying.
Not everyone who signs up for the test ends up actually taking it. Last year, 380,000 people signed up only to give up before even sitting down.
Some users of China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service took the start of this year’s exams as an opportunity to criticize the process that leads so many trying to get into the service.
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“The national civil-servants exam is more like the traditional imperial exam now,” one user wrote. “People choose to be a civil servant mostly for materialistic reasons. How many of them actually choose to be an official because they care about and want to make contribution to the country and the people?”
Others bemoaned a system in which workers prefer to become officials in an attempt to strike it rich rather than taking to the private sector.
“Studying so hard for over 20 years and took numerous exams…not for joining a company to create wealth for the society, but simply out of desperation to be an official and have a stable job while making a fortune out of it,” another user wrote. “Isn’t the system pathetic?”
Such comments, combined with the heaving crowds pushing their way into testing centers, could reflect skepticism that China’s new leadership can actually stamp out the corruption that makes a career in the government so financially alluring.
On the other hand, with China’s once astronomical economic growth set to come back to Earth, a stable job with guaranteed benefits could be a good thing to have, perks or no perks.
–Brittany Hite, with contributions from Lilian Lin.