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Anti-graft drive tarnishes Mandarins’ golden rice bowl

The number of people taking civil service exams in China has dropped this year amid reforms to streamline government agencies and crackdown on corruption.
Xinhua News Agency reported that 16 of the country’s 23 provinces and municipalities have seen drops in applications for the civil-servant exam. Meanwhile, 15 provincial governments have cut the number of civil service jobs in an effort to streamline public agencies.

In Liaoning province, 237 civil service positions were eliminated due to insufficient applications; in Zhejiang, the number of applicants dropped by 37 percent from last year, falling to a four-year low.

About 30% of the applicants ended up abandoning the test after registration.

Experts have given various reasons for the decline, such as stricter requirements on qualifications, harsh working conditions for certain positions, declines in government employees’ benefits, and changes of attitudes toward government jobs.

“Civil servants now have less access to ‘grey income’ because of strict government supervision,” a young person told the Wall Street Journal, adding that much of the public now views civil servants as “greedy, cold and lazy.”

Twenty-two officials in Jiangyong County, Hunan province, were punished recently for illegally appointing their children or relatives to government positions. Liu Runsheng, former deputy head of the county, was imprisoned for taking bribes related to the case.

Nonetheless, enthusiasm for civil service jobs remains strong in less developed places such as Guangxi, Hubei, Chongqing, and Hunan, where people have fewer employment choices compared to rich coastal areas, experts said.

Chinese in those regions still see civil service jobs as a “golden bowl” that brings decent salaries and a cosy life.

Sources: China Daily, Wall Street Journal, Xinhua News (新华网)


Hui Zhi is the Senior Manager for Content with the China Compliance Digest, where a version of this post first appeared.