The civil service is set to launch a recruitment drive for farmers and workers, who will be allowed to compete for positions at central government departments for the first time in 2011, the top civil service body has said.
The State Administration of Civil Service said on Monday that it will start a trial program to select farmers and workers to join the civil service when recruitment begins on Oct 15.
The administration did not elaborate on the move but said the program will be introduced at a grassroots level to recruit future civil servants to work in customs and taxation sectors as well as railway police stations.
"It would be a breakthrough to recruit rural residents," Liu Xutao, a professor with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance, told China Daily on Monday.
"According to the country's Civil Servant Law, Chinese citizens, both urban and rural residents, are eligible to apply to join the civil service," Liu said.
China introduced the national recruitment system in 1994 and some cities in Shaanxi province, including its capital Xi'an, selected farmers as civil servants in the late 1990s.
Guangdong province organized a test on Oct 1 to recruit 400 township civil servants from farmers and workers, including migrant workers.
Graduates have traditionally been a dominant force in civil service recruitment, especially after college enrollment expanded in 1999.
Lack of a college degree will not be an insurmountable obstacle for farmers or workers, Liu said.
Work experience, though, is vital. "Academic degrees should not be the sole gauge for the recruitment of civil servants," Liu said but added that work experience was important if they were to have an input into the civil service.
The State Administration of Civil Service said more than 70 percent of central government civil servants recruited in 2010 had at least two years' grassroots work experience.
"We plan to raise the proportion to more than 85 percent in 2011," it said.
Liu also stressed that the increased recruitment of experienced applicants will decrease the demand for graduates.
He suggested that graduates who want to become civil servants should first get work experience before they apply to the civil service.
Besides, 10 to 15 percent of central government civil service positions will be reserved for cunguan, college graduates working as village heads, the civil service administration said.
The central government issued a circular in 2005 calling on college graduates to seek work experience to reverse the shortage of professionals in rural areas and to ease unemployment in cities.
Yuan Jun, 24, once a cunguan in Daye city, Hubei province, was recruited as a civil servant in Hubei's Huangshi city this year.
"I had been a cunguan for more than two years. That job gave me experience on how to address problems in work and how to communicate with people. It also helped me better understand society," Yuan said.
"I believe my work experience will greatly benefit my future job."
The national civil servant examination, usually in November or December every year, attracts widespread interest.
Many people believe that a job in the civil service is stable, carries a number of benefits and is also comparatively easy.
Some 1.46 million people applied to sit the 2010 exam, which worked out at 59 applicants competing for each position.
Wang Qingyun contributed to this story.