Elite Peking University student Lynn Lau is among more than 2.6 million people registered for the national civil service exam.

Lau has been looking forward to the occasion when large private Chinese companies enter university campuses this summer to “hunt” talent.

However, with the slowest growth in decades of the country’s economy, Lynn couldn’t help but be disappointed that employers were not looking.

Lau’s parents’ wish that she had a safe civil servant job suddenly made sense at this point.

Lau said, “At this time last year, I saw that my classmates had received offers from big companies, but then, the fate of these same companies was also uncertain.”

Even as cash shortages in some cities have led to pay cuts for civil servants, these jobs are still receiving record interest from young Chinese this year.

According to information from the state media, there are 37,000 vacancies at the central government level and tens of thousands of vacancies at the provincial and city levels.

According to Xinhua News Agency, some positions have as many as 6,000 candidates applying, and the average match rate of this year’s civil service exam is 1 in 70.

Private companies in the technology, finance, or tutoring sectors are laying off tens of thousands of people. The youth unemployment rate hit a record 20%.

Meanwhile, the number of students expected to graduate next year is unprecedented, 11.6 million students, equivalent to the population of Belgium.

Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, said that demand for civil service jobs has increased, “The reasons are obvious: the negative sentiment, the fear of the future.”

Young Chinese people have commented on social media, calling civil servants jobs the safest position in a volatile environment like today.

Also, according to Reuters, families in China feel very proud when their children secure positions in the state.

These jobs have an income of about $14,000 per year, which can be 3-4 times larger if working in large coastal cities. This amount is often much higher than the salary received in private companies. Along with that, civil servants often have other benefits, such as housing.

By 2021, SCMP reported, a posting at the town government could be paid $23,000 a year or more. Full-time employees of a district department in Shenzhen can earn an annual salary of more than $44,000.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s annual per capita income reached 32,189 yuan, or $4,656, in 2020, making positions as civil servants popular.

Chen, a 25-year-old law student in Guangzhou, is aware of the pay cut and other restrictions but insists a state job is her best option. She spends 6 to 8 hours a day preparing for the exam. “The current state of the job market certainly adds to my desire to become a civil servant,” she said.

However, due to a surge in protests at the end of November, the civil service exam scheduled for December 3-4 was delayed. A new exam schedule has yet to be announced, creating even more stress for those seeking a position.

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