There were a record high number of applicants taking this year’s Chinese Civil Service Exam, known as the Guokao. Over 3 million Chinese signed up to take the test, competing for a limited number of job positions the government sector.
On average, there were over 70 candidates competing for every single available position. The most competitive position had 3,572 applicants vying for just 1 opening. Many netizens commented that civil service jobs have become the only viable route for college graduates amid China’s weak economy and grim employment outlook.
Experts say the surge in Guokao applicants is likely tied to post-pandemic economic and hiring difficulties facing China’s private sector. With restaurants forced to slash prices to retain customers and other businesses shutting down, civil service jobs are extremely appealing; they offer stable income and good benefits for life. Some have argued, however, that top talent should not join the government bureaucracy and should instead create value in the private economy.
While economic factors would seem to explain this year’s record high number of exam takers, one researcher cautioned that deeper analysis of candidates’ backgrounds is needed. The increase could also be a “lag effect” from China lifting its zero-COVID policy in 2023.
Besides the record number of Guokao applicants, another noteworthy trend was a reduction in the number of applicants to study at Chinese graduate schools. Chinese youth may now be prioritizing civil service jobs, with all their attendant benefits, over further studies in academia.
Source: Deutsche Welle, November 27, 2023