Communist Party's lower ranks feel squeeze of Xi's austerity drive: poll

Majority of low-level civil servants see their extra benefits dry up and their positions become more difficult, according to newspaper survey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 January, 2014, 1:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 January, 2014, 5:08pm

A Beijing-based newspaper’s poll shows the majority of low-level civil servants’ additional benefits have dropped over the past year, in a sign that President Xi Jinping’s efforts to crack down on officials’ extravagance has taken effect.

About 95 per cent of Communist Party workers surveyed said they had not received any benefits from their divisions last year, according to a poll of 100 low-level public servants across the nation conducted by The Beijing News.

Asked specifically about the benefits, four out five said that last year, they did not receive any favours owing to their positions, which had been a norm in the past. And an overwhelming 92 per cent said additional benefits apart from their salary had dwindled, while just as many said the job was increasingly becoming harder.

There were 7.08 million public servants overall at the time the survey was conducted.

The survey results are in stark contrast to the traditional views of public service in the country. The mainland’s civil service positions often involve easy 9am to 5pm working hours, guaranteed job security and solid welfare benefits, earning the moniker “iron rice bowl”.

This has lured droves of elite college graduates vying for attractive jobs in the public sector in recent years amid the economic downturn.

Last November, 1.11 million people nationwide sat a unified exam for some 19,000 national-level government posts.

The sudden deterioration in welfare for public sector employees, as the survey revealed, is apparently a result of Xi’s high-profile austerity drive to curb rampant extravagance at all levels of China’s bureaucracy.

Since Xi rose to the top of the party in November 2012, the administration has issued a series of orders against civil-service extravagance, including a ban on giving out gifts on festivals as well as reining in luxurious official receptions.

The initiative has resulted in more than 20,000 government officials being punished, according to the country’s top anti-corruption body.

“The frequent regulations on officials help to transform the official-oriented perception in the society. … The civil service was never meant to be an effortless job,” Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou, who specialises in Chinese politics and economy, said in an interview with The China News.

“It is such a worrying phenomenon in China that college students are flocking for civil servant positions. The fresh graduates are full of youth, talents and bear an innovated mind – they ought to strive in private sector,” Hu was quoted saying.

“It will be great if [civil servants] can quit their jobs and use their talents in the society. It also helps to streamline and revitalise the overstaffed bureaucracy,” he explained.