The “zero-COVID” policy caused unheard-of economic turmoil, resulting in record numbers of young Chinese graduates applying for the civil service exam to get the state’s safe rice bowl. However, they regretted the decision after working there for a short while.

A citizen named Wang shared with Sixth Tone that after working for two years, he was disillusioned with life in the state sector.

He expected to earn at least $34,000 (250,000 yuan) per year at his new job. In reality, he was only paid $3,058. His basic wage was reduced by 30%, and he hasn’t received the promised increase in his social insurance payments and annual bonus.

Wang had to work unpaid overtime to assist with the town’s virus-control implementation. He has had to postpone changing his SUV indefinitely and reduce spending at home.

He said, “Changing the car? It’s impossible. The loan for this car hasn’t been paid off yet.”

Education is one of the sectors with the most pay cuts.

Sichuan high school teacher Yin Yu, 25, said she regrets entering the state. The principal welcomed the new teachers, promising not to take their enthusiasm for granted. However, the principal abruptly left his position shortly after the teachers discovered they had only received half their compensation after a few months.

Because of her insufficient salary, Yin cannot take care of her family. She said, “I feel really sorry for my mom. It’s funny to say that I’m a teacher — isn’t it a great job? But how come I can’t afford to support my mother?”

CNN reports that the youth unemployment rate increased from 15% in March to 18% in April, repeatedly reaching new highs throughout the year. For the following several months, it reached nearly 20% in July.

Due to COVID, tax cuts, and the real estate crises, local authorities in China had to make financial cuts. Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) added a budget, it was insufficient, forcing communities to make dramatic financial adjustments. The most typical method is to lower civil officials’ wages.

Wu Muluan, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of the National University of Singapore, claimed in an interview with Sixth Tone that not all civil servants are equally affected. 

Salary reductions are not subject to a national blanket policy since local authorities make judgments based on their specific needs. As a result, smaller administrations bear the most significant financial pressure.

The professor asserts that unless the CCP intervenes and provides additional funding, local finances won’t truly recover.

Wu said, “We don’t know how the CCP will rescue these local authorities. But I believe this is something we should be very careful about in the near future … The current problem should not be underestimated.”

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