Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

More promising career paths for civil servants needed

By Wang Yiqing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-28 07:48

More promising career paths for civil servants needed

Candidates line up at the gate before the civil service exam in Wuhan city, Hubei province, April 25, 2015. The exam saw a record turnout with 106,000 students competing for 5,753 posts. [Photo/CFP]

The authorities should be cautiously aware of an exodus of officials from the civil service. According to online job website, just three weeks after the Spring Festival, more than 10,000 civil servants and other government officials had posted their resumes through its website seeking jobs.

Indeed it is a complicated picture: On one hand, the fever among people to become civil servants seems to continue. Over the weekend, more than 100,000 people competed in the tests to be recruited as civil servants in Central China's Hubei province. On the other, the total number of candidates taking the national civil servant recruitment examination and the average number of applicants for a post were the lowest in five years. Also, the number of posts that had to be scrapped for lack of applicants increased.

The issue of civil servants seeking other jobs, however, demands rational thinking. First, there is nothing abnormal in people jumping jobs. Everybody has the right to choose or change his/her job or career, and cross-flow of talents enriches industries. Also, a society that respects individual choices will develop healthily.

Second, the subsiding "civil servant fever", even if it's true, is not a bad thing. After the global financial crisis, civil service jobs became the most popular career choice in China, and the competition for civil service posts became unprecedentedly intense.

People prefer stable civil service jobs, even if they don't offer competitive salaries, to avoid the risk of unemployment, which is not conducive to market economy. Besides, the flow of top talents into civil service indicates people's leaning toward bureaucracy.

As Zhou Zhiren, professor of Peking University's School of Government, said, the fact that people believe that only being a government official can secure their life, "reflects the failure of society to offer necessary opportunities and conditions for top talents to fulfill their competence and ambition".

Third, some people have attributed the subsiding interest in civil service to the nationwide anti-corruption campaign. But this does not have any basis and is unfair to a majority of civil servants. The arrest and detention of some officials for corruption do point to some loopholes in supervision and inspection mechanism. A few corrupt officials, however, do not represent all civil servants.

Most of the civil servants, especially those posted at the grassroots level, don't draw high salaries; they do not have gray avenues to make money either. On Feb 2014, the entire salary list of all the civil servants and government officials of Lengshuijiang in Hunan province was posted on the Internet. It showed that most of them drew salaries between 2,000 yuan ($322.84) and 3,000 yuan, which is not a high salary even in local areas.

Given these facts, the higher authorities should be cautiously aware of the outflow of talents from the civil service. Talents are important for all organizations and industries. They are crucial for the smooth operation of society, too. To some extent, government authorities are competing with other sectors for talents. Therefore, to attract and keep talents, they should offer better prospects.

Perhaps the authorities should offer higher salaries and perks. But this could be a difficult task given the fact that high salary may never become the main advantage of a civil service career, especially under the existing social environment that the public want the undue privileges enjoyed by civil servants to end.

A former civil servant recently wrote in Jiefang Daily, saying he resigned from his job after working for seven years because as a 30-year-old he considered himself as a loser. He also said that he was disappointed with his "ordinary" and boring work, and had little chance of promotion.

This should prompt the authorities to work out a more promising career path for civil servants in order to draw and retain talents.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

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