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A record 1.12 million people took the annual national civil service exam on Sunday, a rebound after the number fell in 2010 and 2011.
Some 1.5 million people who registered for this year's exam passed the qualification assessment, and 1.12 million took the exam on Sunday, according to figures from the State Administration of Civil Service.
People line up outside a national civil service exam site at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, on Sunday. [Photo/China Daily] More photos
They are competing for around 20,800 positions in more than 140 State-level government agencies and their affiliated public institutions and local branches.
The number of qualified applicants and number of people who took the exam reached a new high in 2009 before dropping in the following two years. This year's numbers showed a rebound in interest.
High employment pressure, fierce competition for jobs and the chance of a stable working life are the main reasons behind the demand for government positions, said an article released by the administration on Sunday.
Next year China will have about 7 million new college graduates, up from this year's 6.8 million, making competition in the job market even tougher, the article from the administration said, citing unnamed officials in charge of the exam.
However, the administration said that some positions, particularly those in remote and poor areas, have failed to attract applicants.
"We hope our applicants can devote themselves to working in West China, in remote and less-developed regions, and in areas that the country needs them most," the article said.
Penalty for dishonesty
Li Yongxin, president of Zhonggong Education, which offers private training for exam hopefuls, said that in the past few years, only two thirds of applicants actually take the exam. But on Sunday, three fourths of the applicants did so.
Li attributed the increasing number of people taking the exam to higher costs for abandoning the exam and other measures introduced by civil service authorities.
People who pass the exam and interviews but ultimately pull out of the process, and those who are successfully recruited but turn down the position, will earn a credit record that will affect any future application for civil servant recruitment, said the administration.
The administration has also warned that anyone who cheats in the exam will not be allowed to reapply for five years, and people who organize group cheating or hire ghostwriters to take the exam will be banned for life.
Fake exam takers
Some university students, who are ineligible to take the civil servant exam, are trying to take the test by applying with false information — inventing degrees and work experience.
The civil service exam is only open to university graduates and people who have work experience.
Yang Qian, a graduate student at a university in Beijing, said it's common on campus for non-graduate students to find ways of taking the exam to "warm up".
Yang, 24, admitted that she took the test last year. Yang will graduate in 2014.
"I major in politics, so a job in the civil service is appropriate for me," she said. "Making myself better prepared for the exam will increase the possibility of success."
Zhu Yanran, 22, is a student at the Shanghai-based Tongji University and will graduate next year. Zhu took the civil service exam on Sunday.
Majoring in journalism, Zhu said she also wants to seek further education in the United Kingdom. "But I don't want to miss any opportunity to become a civil servant if I were qualified," she said.
Zhu applied for a publicity officer position at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Li Yongxin from Zhonggong Education said it's hard for recruiters to examine the authenticity of information at the application phase because of the sheer number of applicants.
"Usually applicants can pass the qualification examination if their information accords with the position requirements," he said. "Each applicant's information will not be seriously examined until they pass the exam and enter the interview phase."
Each year around 60,000 people are interviewed, according to Li.
"There is a dilemma for university students who want to accumulate experience by taking the exam but, at the same time, they do not want to get scores high enough to get them an interview," he said.
Liu Xutao, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing, praised the authorities' introduction of a credit record.
"What's more important is that students realize where their real interests lie and what their ideal jobs are, rather than blindly following others to apply for a government job," he said.
Various examination venues across China have implemented measures to stop cheating.
A test site in Sichuan province provided elastic bands for attendees with long hair, forcing them to tie it back to prevent them from using micro earphones.
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