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China's government agencies to cut recruitment amid institutional reform

A woman prepares for the National Civil Servant Exam at Nanjing Forestry University in Jiangsu province in December 2017. Photo: Xinhua

China's state organs will sharply reduce recruitment in 2019, as the country pushes forward with institutional reform to streamline its overstaffed government agencies.

Seventy-five central government organs and their 20 subordinate departments will offer 14,500 positions next year, compared with 28,000 civil servants recruited in 2018, according to the website of the State Administration of Civil Service.

The application process for jobs at government departments just closed on Wednesday, and the public servant examination, which will focus on theoretical knowledge and practical ability, is scheduled to begin on December 2.

The number of people allowed to work for Party and government agencies has hit a record low in nearly a decade, a situation some experts attribute to the ongoing institutional reform aimed at optimizing organizational structure and improving administrative efficiency.

Over the recent years, China has strengthened efforts on restructuring its various administrative entities ranging from ministries under the State Council, the country's cabinet, to departments affiliated to the Communist Party of China. The country has also merged several government departments or regulators under what it calls "big ministries" in a shakeup campaign aimed at improving governance and law enforcement.

The government institution that needs new employees most is the State Administration of Taxation, whose Beijing and Shanghai branches plan to hire 860 employees combined, said the State Administration of Civil Service.

In the recent months, tax evasion in the country's showbiz industry was a target of the tax authorities, with billionaire actress Fan Bingbing fined more than 800 million yuan for tax avoidance. The punishment to Fan is seen as a warning for highly paid celebrities.

Among a series of attributes that an applicant need to have to become a public servant, the State Administration of Civil Service said that "political correctness" will be prioritized in the recruitment process, during which a candidate will be strictly assessed in terms of ideology and lifestyle.

'Golden rice bowl'

Working for government is traditionally regarded as holding a "golden rice bowl", which could assure people of stable income, good welfare and decent social position.

Many university graduates make civil service as their top choice as many government departments can help them obtain a local residency status, with some even turning down offers from big private companies in exchange for permanent residency.

Holding permanent residency is extremely important for those living in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where young people can hardly afford an apartment.

"Although I cannot buy a house now, it could be better to get permanent residency (with the help of a government agency)," said a university graduate who sees a job at government departments or state-owned enterprises as top career option.

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