Lau said, “Last year I felt that my older classmates at this point had received offers from big companies but then these exact companies this year are just in wait and see mode.”
Lau is one of the more than 2 million people who, according to state media, have registered for the nationwide civil servant exam. This exam will determine if they are eligible for a record 37,000 central government jobs as well as tens of thousand of other city and provincial government positions.
These jobs are attracting record interest this year, even as cash-strapped governments in some cities cut wages. This is a sign that economic weakness is becoming an endemic in zero-COVID China. Xinhua, a state news agency, stated that there were up to 6,000 applicants for some positions while the average was only 70 to 1.
Private tech, finance and tutoring companies are closing down tens of thousands jobs. This year’s youth unemployment was at an all time high of 20%.
The expected graduation rate for next year is unprecedented at 11.6 millions students. This is the same number as the entire Belgium population.
The Communist Party faces the greatest challenge in finding them jobs. It points to the incredible prosperity China has experienced over the past forty years to prove its power monopoly.
Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist Asia Pacific at Natixis says the preference to work as a civil servant has risen.
She said, “The reasons are evident: the negative emotion, the fear for the future.”
The private sector is finding it more challenging in an economy ravaged by COVID-19 lockdowns. A property market downturn, soft demand for foreign products, and long hours are all contributing to a high level of stress.
Young Chinese use social media to refer to civil service as the “end” of the universe, meaning the safest place in such an environment.
However, the exam was scheduled to take place on December 3-4. It has been delayed by COVID-19 strains. There has not been an announcement of a new date. This adds stress.
Students in WeChat chats share tips to improve scores and offer emotional support to each other as they wait for word.
Shangshang is a 21-year old college senior from Yunnan. She declined to give her full identity because she believed a government role would lessen the risk of “implosion” which is a term that young Chinese use to describe excessive pressure at work.
She stated that being a civil servant provides stability.
China has been a hot spot for civil servant jobs for thousands of year as it is a way for people with high scores on the five-hour multidisciplinary exam to rise up the social ladder.
Family pride is still strong today when their children join the 55 million state enterprise sector workers or the civil service. According to 2015 data, it had more than 7,000,000 members and will likely grow in size.
The average salary for these jobs is more than 100,000 yuan ($14,000 a year), though it can be as high as 3-4 times higher in coastal cities. These jobs often pay much more than comparable roles in the private sectors, and come with housing subsidies or other perks.
They have remained popular despite the fact that several cities in various provinces, including Guangdong Jiangsu Zheijiang Fujian and Jiangsu, cut pay by up to one third this year, according at least six civil servants.
It is unknown how widespread the state sector cuts are in China. However, the $1 trillion deficit facing the budget of the provincial governments this year has been caused by the property crash and COVID cost increases.
According to a Guangzhou government official, the city clerks leave home with less money than they earned. This is not their fault but because of serious fiscal challenges.
Official: “This year could be the worst 10 years in history, but it could also be the best 10 years,” he said.
Jane Kang is a county-level prosecutor officer in Fujian. She estimates that her salary of 110,000-120,000yuan per annum will fall 10-15% by 2022. She is unhappy about this, but has limited options to improve her situation.
Kang stated that if Kang cannot leave the country, he will stay in the program. “Those who work in the system have greater job security than those who are not.”
Some employees in government claim that the work environment is also worsened.
Guangzhou’s government employee claimed that her bosses require that she commute only between home/office to reduce COVID risks.
She stated, “I would like to go to a park and eat in a restaurant, as well as to get a haircut.”
Chen, a Guangzhou-based law student, is 25 years old and is fully aware of the restrictions on her pay. However, she insists that she can get a job as a state employee and works six to eight hours each day for the exam.
She said, “The current state of our job market has definitely increased me desire to become civil servants.