China’s civil service exams attract 1.6m entrants

By on 13/11/2017 | Updated on 27/01/2022
President of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Xi Jinping

China’s national civil service exam – or guokao – is set to be fiercely contested this year, after 1.56m job seekers registered by the deadline of Wednesday 8 November.

Of those job seekers, 1.38m have been approved to sit the exam – competing for a record 28,533 government jobs. So an average of 48 applicants will be fighting for each post – and competition for some posts is particularly intense.

A total of 2,666 candidates have applied for the most sought-after position, in the Liaison Office of the International Cooperation Department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, according to the state-run newspaper China Daily.

Two children, one job & 2700 applicants

The commission used to run China’s one-child policy, until the programme was abolished in 2015 due to a falling birth rate. Families have since been allowed to have two children, and the agency nowadays performs a wide range of family planning and public health functions.It is looking to step up its international cooperation, and candidates for the post are required to be proficient in English, with high scores in the TOEFL or IELTS language tests, the South China Morning Post reported.

However, 119 positions – many of which are in low-level posts or remote or less-developed regions – have not attracted any applications.

Overall, there are 1,472 more posts on offer than last year, continuing a five-year trend of rising recruitment. The increase is due to large numbers of Chinese civil servants entering retirement, according to China Daily.

Supper time round the golden rice bowl

The civil service, which is known as “the golden rice bowl”, is one of the most popular employers with young people in China, who value its job security and benefits, despite relatively low salaries.

The gruelling five-hour exam, which takes place on 10 December, involves a two-hour aptitude test with 135 multiple-choice questions and three hours of essay writing on policy issues. Candidates, who must be Chinese citizens aged between 18 and 35, are also interviewed.

Cheating in the guokao was made punishable by heavy fines or up to seven years in prison through legislative amendments passed in 2015. Serving government employees were barred from sitting the exam the same year, putting an end to a tradition of civil servants in lower grades seeking to use it as a short-cut to promotion.

The moves were part of president Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption, which reduced civil service salaries and pension provisions and prohibited unauthorised gifts, banquets and other benefits for officials.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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