26 September 2023

CHINA: Graduates look for public sector safety

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As a physics student at the elite Peking University in Beijing, Lynn Lau was expecting major Chinese companies to be visiting her campus looking for talented recruits.

However, with the world’s second-largest economy growing at its slowest rate in decades, many recruiters stayed away.

The wishes of Ms Lau’s parents that she should have a “safe” Public Service career suddenly made more sense.

“Last year, my older classmates by this point had already got offers from big companies, but these same companies this year have been in a wait-and-see mode,” Ms Lau said.

She is among more than 2.6 million people that State media said have signed up for the nationwide Public Service Examination, competing for a record 37,000 Central Government jobs and tens of thousands of other Provincial and Local Government posts.

Those jobs are drawing record interest this year even as cash-strapped administrations in some cities cut wages, in a sign that economic weakness in zero-COVID China is becoming endemic.

State news agency, Xinhua said some posts had as many as 6,000 candidates fighting for them, while the average was around 70-to-one.

Private firms in tech, finance or tutoring are shedding tens of thousands of jobs, while an unprecedented 11.6 million students, equal to the entire population of Belgium, are expected to graduate next year.

Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, Alicia Garcia-Herrero said the preference for Public Service jobs had surged.

On social media, young Chinese refer to the Public Service as “the end of the universe”, meaning the safest place around in the current environment of uncertainty.

However, the Public Service Examination, originally scheduled for 3 and 4 December, has been postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks and no new date has been announced, adding to the stress.

Beijing, 4 December 2022

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