The number of candidates sitting civil service examinations in China has steadily increased from 30,000 to 540,000 since 2001, with one out of every thousand candidates being successfully recruited, according to a report in China Youth Daily on April 18.
A Summit Forum on Harmonious Pioneering, jointly sponsored by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League, China Youth Daily and www.ceoglobal.com, was held at Renmin University of China on April 4. During the forum, university students discussed the difficulties and challenges of joining the civil service. When the discussion turned to starting a business, most of the students didn't know where to start or simply had nothing to say.
For many university students, starting a business is something that they might aspire to but feel that they can never actually do. Sociologists who participated in the forum concluded that driving the "civil service fever", that is, the scrambling for jobs in the public sector, is the fear of private sector and open market challenges.
"A civil servant is comparatively carefree and has a stable income, social welfare benefits and other perks," said Wu Wei, a student who participated in the forum. "A job in the civil service is also highly respected. Most important, a civil servant always has a sense of security and doesn't have to worry about unemployment and pensions."
But some students held a different opinion. "These are multi-faceted times. I don't think one has to limit one's options," said a second-year student from the School of International Studies at Renmin University. "What I want is to work with a non-governmental organization or in education," she said. "Not everybody is made for the civil service or for starting a business. It depends on his or her character and interests."
Many other participants agreed with her.
Yuan Jian, editor-in-chief of the Directors & Boards magazine, said: "Graduating students are a group of people who are active, courageous and full of pioneering spirit, characteristics essential for starting a business."
But Tang Jun, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Science, empathized with new graduates. He said that a graduating student should not be criticized for wanting a stable job. "For any laborer, employment is a means of subsistence first, and an undertaking next. It's not easy to get anything else done if one can't even guarantee a stable income," Tang said.
Also attending the forum were renowned entrepreneurs including Wang Wenjing, chairman of UFIDA Software Co. Ltd., and Wang Yaohui, chairman and CEO of the AEA International Business Consulting Ltd.
Wang Wenjing had worked as a civil servant in an administrative office under the State Council for five years before he became a businessman; and Wang Yaohui had served as an international economic coordinator at the former Ministry of Foreign Trade and Cooperation for several years before starting his business.
According to Wang Wenjing, a successful person has usually had a difficult time finding the right job. "A top civil servant must have qualities such as a sense of responsibility, professional knowledge, and diligence in attending to state affairs," he said, adding: "The civil servant experience taught me to think systematically and helped me develop a solid foundation on which to build my enterprise."
He added that a civil servant serves the people, and so does the entrepreneur in some sense.
Wang Yaohui said: "In a pluralistic society, one shouldn't be one-tracked when selecting jobs. If you think you are fit to be a civil servant, just go ahead and take the exam. If you think you are fit to be an entrepreneur, do it."
Wang Yaohui described his civil servant experience as a "modest period of study."
"A high-quality civil servant must have the breadth of vision, have a good understanding of state policies, a desire to serve the people, especially the disadvantaged groups," he said. "Civil service may not be a lifelong occupation, but the experience is good training. It lays the groundwork for a person's later career, especially in business."
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, April 23, 2006)