More civil servants leaving their jobs for better pay, sense of achievement

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-6 18:38:01

Photo: IC

Sui Yi's (pseudonym) life became more active and enjoyable after October 2014, when she left the low-level Beijing civil service post she had filled for five years.

"I should have resigned earlier. I began to meet more people and broaden my horizons after leaving my position as an obscure civil servant," said the 29-year-old Sui. "And more importantly, I make more money than before."

Many civil servants in China are now doing what Sui did or are thinking about it as civil service jobs, which were once seen as valuable due to the stability of the "iron rice bowl," are losing their appeal.

An official from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency in April as saying that there has been no noticeable surge in the number of civil servants leaving their posts. But frequent reports of  civil servants resigning have caught public attention.

Leaving public positions

According to Chinese jobs website, 34 percent more civil servants in 2015 are considering leaving their jobs during the traditional job-hunting season that started in February compared to last year.

The website said that over 10, 000 people working for government or government-funded institutions have signed up to look for jobs. These civil servants are mostly looking for jobs in the property development, finance, and Internet sectors.

At least three officials at the departmental level or higher in Shanghai have reportedly left their jobs since March and two of them have found private sector jobs, China Youth Daily reported in July.

An unnamed official from a large commercial bank in Shanghai told the 21 Century Economic Report newspaper that they offer a 600,000 yuan ($96,660) annual salary to division-level officials and at least 2 million yuan per year to department-level officials, salaries several times higher than those they can earn as civil servants.

According to Outlook Weekly, more than 100 civil servants quit their jobs in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, in 2014, 0.21 percent of the total number of civil servants in the city. And in the past five years, more than 300 civil servants under 30-years-old in Beijing have resigned.

"A career in governmental institutions is losing its appeal with fewer people, especially the young, choosing to enter the field in the first place," a young man surnamed Jia, who used to work as a civil servant in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, told the Global Times.

Around 1.4 million people took the annual national public servant exams in November 2014, the lowest figure in five years, according to Xinhua.

"Civil service jobs in second- and third-tier cities still attract people who want stability, but in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, there is more choice when it comes to work," Jia said.

Jia quit his job in 2014 and found work in the media in Beijing. He finds this kind of career more fulfilling and interesting.

Money and promotion problems

"For most civil servants, their relatively low pay is the key reason to leave," said Sui, who used to earn about 4,500 yuan monthly.

The average annual salary for people who work in Beijing was 77,560 yuan in 2014, about 6,443 yuan a month, according to statistics released by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics in June.

"In the past five years, my salary has increased only once but other benefits were canceled. As when our salaries rise we need to pay more into the housing fund, the money in our pocket barely grew and some even received less than before," said Sui.

Reports have blamed these complaints on pressure from the country's anti-corruption and frugality campaigns, which led to civil servants losing their "grey income," the money they could make from their power.

"This is not true for most grass-roots civil servants as they do not have any grey income. The anti-corruption campaign has made them lose benefits which they are supposed to receive to make up for their heavy work loads," said Jia.

Aside from money problems, the scarcity of promotions in governmental institutions is another reason some civil servants quit their jobs.

"There are limited positions in government departments and institutions, which means limited promotions," said Li Zhi, 28, a civil servant from East China's Fujian Province.

Li has considered leaving his position for a long time and he began to contact other civil servants who have the same idea via the Internet in 2014. He now manages five online chat groups in which almost all the members are civil servants who have quit their jobs or are considering quitting.

"Some grass-roots civil servants do tedious paper work every day, which gives them little hope for promotion or a sense of achievement," said Li.

Measures to retain talents

"A few civil servants leaving their jobs should be seen as normal job-hopping influenced by market regulations," Peng Xizhe, a public policy expert at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

As the things that attracted some people to civil service jobs fade away, they are changing their career plans, said Peng.

"But some former civil servants face prejudice when looking for a new job. Companies worry that civil servants are idle and they could not meet the demands of companies," said Sui.

Li did not agree with Sui, saying that some companies want to hire people who have worked as civil servants for they are good at dealing with governmental agencies and have many official contacts.

"It is not right for high-ranking officials to work in the private sector after they quit their jobs. It is a new way of rent-seeking and does not help crack down on corruption," Peng said, arguing that the prospect of moving on to a high-paying private sector job may influence officials' use of their power. 

Premier Li Keqiang urged in June that the salary of civil servants should be increased, especially those at the grass-roots level, at a meeting of the State Council, reported.

The MHRSS announced on Monday that the salaries of 40 million people working in government departments and institutions have increased by 300 yuan a month.
Newspaper headline: Giving up the ‘iron rice bowl’

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