by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 25, 2012
Hundreds of thousands packed out schools and universities across China Sunday to take the national civil service exam, with a record number registering in search of a stable government job.
More than 1.5 million people applied to sit the exam, the Beijing Times reported, over 30 times the number a decade ago.They are vying for about 20,000 government vacancies, according to state television.
The rapid expansion in recent years has been boosted by the perception that government jobs offer added stability and status, test-takers said.
Outside the Hujiaolou middle school in Beijing, one of dozens of test sites in the capital, Liu Ting, a 24-year-old student, stood clutching a red revision book containing lists of "hot" political jargon to be used during the test.
"I'm taking the exam because government jobs are more stable," Liu said. "There's basically no chance of losing a government job once you have one."
Most candidates are university graduates, part of a massive expansion of higher education in China with almost seven million new graduates set to hit the job-market this year, the state-run China News Service said.
A 31-year-old woman surnamed Liu told AFP she hoped to swap her private-sector job as a quality inspector for a government post because "the benefits are better, and you don't need to worry about pensions or health insurance".
Cindy Liu, a flight attendant aged 27, expressed more exalted motives, saying she had been "reading the works of Chairman Mao" and hoped to "serve the people".
Those who pass the exam will also have to succeeed in a tough interview process before they can gain a government job.
Government officials are widely seen as corrupt in China and dozens of cases of graft have made headlines this year.
But Cindy Liu, who hopes for a job in the foreign ministry, said: "It's possible to be a clean official."
China's current civil service exam is a descendant of the ancient imperial examination system known as the Keju, introduced in the 7th Century AD and often regarded as the percursor of China's so-called meritocracy, or system of government based on merit.
But authorities this year are on the lookout for cheaters, with anyone caught breaking exam rules barred from sitting again for five years, the Beijing Times reported.
The hundreds of thousands sitting the exam have created a thriving training industry, with representatives from several coaching schools crowded outside the middle schools' aluminium gates to greet the test-takers.
"We hope the students who do badly will come and train with our school next year," one employee surnamed Qiu -- sporting a yellow vest emblazoned with the words "I can pass the civil service exam" -- told AFP.
"After all, only one in 1,000 students can pass," she said, shivering in Beijing's cold November wind.
China News from SinoDaily.com
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