1.3 million hopefuls vie for 15,000 civil service positions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 October, 2009, 12:00am

More than 1.3 million applicants have registered to compete for about 15,000 civil service jobs offered for next year, reflecting the tight job market and the service's rosy image.

By the end of Saturday, the official deadline for online registration for nationwide civil service exams, about 1.35 million applicants had submitted their registrations, easily surpassing last year's record of 1.05 million applicants, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

They were chasing 15,526 job openings this year, meaning the ratio between applicants and openings has inched closer to 1:100.

Professor Yang Tuan, a social-studies researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, attributed the high ratio to the harsh job market and to the security offered by government positions.

'It has become increasingly clear in the global financial crisis since last year that government jobs offer the kind of security and reasonable compensation package few other industries in China can provide,' he said.

The top draw was an opening with the Ministry of Science and Technology, which drew 4,080 applications. Thousands more were drawn to jobs related to law enforcement, such as customs, taxation and commerce administration, around the country.

As of Saturday afternoon, 13,406 applicants had registered for four openings at the customs bureau in Xiamen, Fujian province, pushing the ratio of jobs versus applicants up to 1:3,351.

The flood of interest surprised many customs officers who said they had not realised how attractive their jobs were.

'I have no idea why people apply for our jobs like crazy, and I can see no rationale for their motivation,' said a customs officer who joined the bureau in 2004.

The officers in Xiamen make a little more than 3,000 yuan (HK$3,400) a month. Even with subsidies and annual bonuses, earnings remain less than 5,000 yuan a month.

'You still have to save a portion of your income every month if you want to buy a house someday, for the Xiamen customs bureau has long since stopped taking care of our housing,' the employee said.

Many analysts and public service insiders have long warned applicants about the contrast between their perception of such jobs and the reality, but few listen. Applicants have mentioned rumours, posted on online exam forums, claiming customs workers take lucrative kickbacks.

The employee and another customs employee at Shanghai's Pudong airport said the kickbacks were just rumours.

'In all honesty, there might have been kickbacks to senior officials, but for ordinary employees like me, I have never seen kickbacks, not once,' said the Shanghai employee, who gave his surname as Liu.

Yang sees the circulation of such rumours as a reason for the central government to bring greater transparency to the civil service.

'One way to get less misguided or misinformed applicants is to provide transparency about civil service jobs,' Yang said. 'And ordinary people - whom civil servants are supposed to serve - also need transparency to understand how government workers have served them.'

To many new college and university graduates, civil service exams offer just another opportunity to land a job in an increasingly competitive job market. The Social Security Ministry says about 74 per cent of this year's six million graduates had landed a job by last month. But many private investigation firms suggest 40 to 50 per cent is more accurate.

Fang Shiyu, a graduate of the Beijing Institute of Technology, saw the exam as a remote opportunity to land a full-time job. He is now working part-time as a sales agent for a Beijing computer-parts retailer. 'I have no idea whom I'm competing with for those jobs in Tianjin , Shandong and Xiamen, but it doesn't hurt me to try for whatever jobs are available out there.'

Service minded

Civil service jobs are particularly popular this year. The number of applicants for a single job in the Ministry of Science and Technology was: 4,080