As economy stutters state media reported have signed up to the nationwide civil service exam?

Lau’s parents wishes that Lau had a safe career in civil service suddenly made more sense.

Lau stated, “Last Year, I felt my older classmates had already received offers from large companies but then these companies this year have been in wait-and see mode.”

Lau is one of more than 2.6 millions people that state media reported have signed up to the nationwide civil service exam. They are competing for record 37,000 jobs in central government and tens, of thousands of other posts in provincial and local government.

These jobs have been attracting record interest, even though cash-strapped cities in some cities are cutting wages. This is a sign of economic weakness in zero COVID China. Xinhua, the state news agency, said that some positions had up to 6,000 candidates competing for them while the average was 70 to 1.

Tech, finance and tutoring firms are losing thousands of jobs. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high of 20%.

Next year, 11.6 million students will graduate, which is more than the entire Belgian population.

The Communist Party will have to find them work. This is despite the fact that China has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity over the past 40 years to support its monopoly of power.

Alicia Garcia-Herrero is chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis. She says that the preference for civil service jobs has risen.

She stated that “the reasons are obvious: The negative sentiment, fear of the future.”

Private sector workers are experiencing more difficult conditions in an economy that is suffering from COVID-19 lockdowns and a property market slump, as well as a soft demand for exports and long hours.

Social media is full of young Chinese who refer to the civil services as “the end” or the “end of the universe”, meaning that it is the most secure place in such an environment.

The exam was originally scheduled for Dec 3-4, but it has since been delayed due to COVID-19 epidemics. No new dates have been announced, which adds to the stress.

Students can share their tips and offer support in WeChat groups.

Shangshang, a 21 year-old college senior from Yunnan, declined to reveal her full name. She said that a government role would reduce the risk of “implosion”, a term used by young Chinese to describe the overwhelming pressure at work.

She said, “Being a civil servant gives me a lot more stability.”


China’s civil servant jobs are in high demand since thousands of years. They offer a guaranteed way for people who have passed the multidisciplinary five-hour exam to climb the social ladder.

Families still take pride in their children’s participation in the 55 million-strong state enterprise sector or civil service. The latest data from 2015 shows that it was over 7 million strong. It is possible to be even larger.

These jobs pay an average of more than 100,000 Yuan ($14,000 per year), but they can go up to 3-4 times in large coastal cities. This is often more than similar roles in the private sector and comes with housing subsidies and other perks.

This has allowed them to remain popular in spite of city governments in many provinces (Guangdong Jiangsu Zheijiang Fujian), cutting their pay up to a quarter this year according to at least six civil servants as well as some media articles.

Although it is not clear how widespread the cuts in state sector salaries are across China’s country, provincial governments are facing a $1 trillion budget shortfall due to the property slump and COVID costs.

One Guangzhou official said that city clerks return home with less money, “not through their own fault, but simply because they are facing severe fiscal challenges.”

The official stated that “this year may be one of the worst in the past 10 years, but it could be one of the best in the next 10.”


Jane Kang, a county-level prosecutor in Fujian province, claims her 110,000-120,000 Yuan per year salary will drop 10-15% in 2022. This makes Kang unhappy but there are few options for improving her situation.

Kang stated, “If I cannot leave the country then I will stay in the system.” “If you are a member of the system, you will have more job security than people who work outside it.”

Some government employees claim that the work environment has also changed.

Guangzhou government worker said that her bosses insist she commute between home and work to minimize COVID risk. This is even when other residents can move freely.

She said, “I want to go in a park, eat at a restaurant, and get a haircut.”

Chen, a Guangzhou law student aged 25, is well aware of the restrictions and pay cuts, but she insists that a job in the state sector is the best choice. She studies six to eight hours per day to prepare for the exam.

She stated that the current state of the job market had increased her desire to be a civil servant.


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