Record 7.7 million applicants for 200,000 government jobs

Students look for jobs at a trade fair in Hangzhou, China. According to a CNBC analysis of state media reports, 7.7 million people took the civil service exam in the 2023 application round, vying for more than 200,000 government jobs at the national and provincial levels.

Qilai Shen | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

A record number of people in China took the civil service exam this year as unemployment among young people soared.

According to a CNBC analysis of state media reports, 7.7 million people took the civil service exam in the 2023 application round, vying for more than 200,000 government jobs at the national and provincial levels.

Government jobs in China are generally considered stable and prestigious. GDP growth has slowed from the rapid pace of recent decades.

Interest in government jobs comes as Xi Jinping cemented his position as China’s leader for an unprecedented third term last week.

Xi sees unity among China’s ruling Communist Party as essential to building the country. That said, the party has and will increase its presence in business, including at non-state-owned companies.

China's new premier must show government welcomes private sector growth: Economist

The study of “Xi Thought” is a growing requirement for schools in China.

Millions of people aspiring to government jobs must take China’s civil service exam – which begins with questions about Xi’s report to the party congress and Xi’s thoughts in a multiple-choice section.

Here is a sample question from Gongkaotong: sells the exam preparation questions for the civil service exam:

Xi Jinping’s thoughts on the economy are an important part of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. Regarding Xi Jinping’s thoughts on the economy, how many of the following statements are correct?

① Entering a new stage of development is a historical orientation of China’s economic development
② Promoting high-quality development is a special theme of China’s economic development
③Adhering to the new concept of development is the guiding principle of China’s economic development
④ The insistence on opening up to the outside world is the first driving force for China’s economic development
⑤ The vigorous development of manufacturing industry and the real economy is the focus of China’s economic development

A. 2 items
B. 3 items
C. 4 items
D. 5 items

The written exam consists of two parts: a 120-minute multiple-choice section on “Vocational Management Skills” and a 180-minute essay titled “Shen Lun,” which translates to “Constructing and Defending an Argument.”

The administrative test includes questions about Report of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, and other rules and regulations. The exam also tests language skills, data analysis, quantitative methods, “judgment and reasoning” and “common sense judgment”.

Preference for young officials

The state expanded national and provincial recruitment by about 15 to 20 percent, a decision “aimed at alleviating the pressure of unemployment, especially for college graduates.” according to a state media reportciting Zhu Lijia, a professor at the party’s National Academy of Governance.

About two-thirds of civil service positions at the national level were open only to recent graduates or those who graduated within the past two years and were unable to find employment during this round of testing, according to state media.

Who is hiring?

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security is the largest ministry-level recruiter, according to a plan released by the National Public Service Administration.

Here is a list of some vacancies:

1. China’s Ministry of Public Security: 39 positions
2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 38 posts
3. Chinese Communist Party Headquarters: 26 entry positions. The department provides security, medical care, and secretarial work for the top leadership of the party and government.
4. Cyberspace Administration of China: 20 posts, 12 of which will work in the Emergency Command Center of Internet Security. The regulator monitors the content and has the power to remove apps from the app stores.

China’s National Civil Service Administration could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts by CNBC.

Leaders don’t need to test

The Chinese Civil Service Examination has its roots in China’s imperial examination system, which dates back to the 6th century.

Under this system, scholars would complete several levels of testing to obtain government posts—it was viewed as a process that gave everyone a fair chance to climb the social hierarchy.

The country’s current examination system was introduced in 1993 and became mandatory for all entry-level government officials in 2005.

However, Xi and other senior leaders were not required to take a civil service exam to maintain their current roles.

According to the law, only “non-senior officials below senior executive level and other equivalent positions” are required to take the test, not senior executives.

The president, vice president, chairman of the Central Military Commission and other senior government positions in China are selected through a process in which national delegates discuss and nominate a candidate for each role.

Xi won an unprecedented third term on Friday through the process.

At the provincial or lower level, heads of government can face at most one competing candidate for each role.

Safe workplace

Government officials in China earn very modest salaries.

But they are usually guaranteed a lifetime job with high social status. Favorable treatment includes bonuses at festivals, better health insurance and a higher no-contribution pension award.

Accurate payroll figures remain a thorny issue.

We will expand employment opportunities to help young people realize their personal worth through hard work.

The latest figures reported by state media showed that civil servants earned an average of 48,608 yuan (US$6,979) a year in 2012. The reports also showed that Xi received 136,620 yuan a year in 2015.

For a rough comparison, the The per capita salary income of city residents was 20,590 yuan in 2022, according to official figures. Salaries in China vary greatly by region and type of job.

Despite longer-term projections of a shrinking population and labor force, the number of college graduates in China has risen to record highs in recent years.

“From an employment perspective, there is some pressure,” Premier Li Qiang said Monday at his first press conference in the role, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese.

“We will expand employment opportunities to help young people realize their personal worth through hard work.” Record 7.7 million applicants for 200,000 government jobs

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