A recently concluded investigation found that nearly 200 people were still receiving pay from government agencies in a city in Zhejiang province despite the fact they were no longer employed, and some of them had not been for two decades.
Local authorities vowed on Monday to take serious action to deal with these no-show job cases after follow-up investigations are completed in June.
The Party discipline committee of Yongkang in Zhejiang published the names of the 192 people in Yongkang Daily on May 3.
The city government began the investigation in April in hopes of improving work efficiency, said Lan Qunying, secretary of the discipline committee.
It instructed more than 100 agencies, institutions and Party organizations to carry out internal audits focused on cases of extended absences, such as long-term sick leave, overextension of advanced studies and unauthorized leave.
Hu Buqing, a teacher at Yongkang Xixi Junior High School on sick leave since 1989, was still paid monthly, according to the announcement.
Phone calls to the school went unanswered on Monday. Xinhua News Agency previously quoted an unnamed official from the school who said Hu left and started his own business, and his salary is used by the school for teaching and administration.
With 88 people on the list, the city's school system accounts for the greatest portion, according to the investigation. Sociologists say the low salaries of teachers in the 1990s prompted many to leave the field.
"But it's important to check the current jobs of these people to avoid wasting revenue," said Xia Xueluan, professor of sociology at Peking University.
The publication of this kind of accountability information is a first for the city, and it is a means for improving oversight through public participation, Lan said.
"We encourage people familiar with the situation to report cases that were concealed," she said. "We'll perform a thorough investigation of every particular case and prevent recurrence."
Some people applauded the crackdown, but others worry the action will accomplish little in the end. The practice of no-show jobs has long been denounced but remains commonplace in the country, some experts said.
Wang Hui, deputy mayor of Wenshui county, Shanxi province, was relieved of her post in April after officials investigated her based on media reports accusing the woman of "never going to work" during her 15 years in office.
Wang Ye, daughter of Yang Cunhu, secretary of the Party committee of Jingle county, Shanxi province, was paid by the Shanxi Center for Disease Control and Prevention for five years since 2007, although she began working there in July 2011 after graduation.
The total pay and allowance she got during the years was more than 100,000 yuan ($15,878).
The problem is tricky in the country because it is tradition not to interfere with matters of a previous administration in official and business circles for fear of displeasing others, said Fan Ming, director of the institute of market economy at Henan University of Economics and Law.
"The government should have explicit policies to encourage people to break with tradition," Fan said.
He added there are no regular official investigations openly or secretly.
"The commission for inspecting discipline is responsible for examining malfeasance of officials, but this practice has never been defined as evil because it was encouraged in the past."