The national civil service exam for recruitment next year was held on Sunday, with 1.42 million people sitting for it, about 40 percent more than last year. Only 31,200 will be recruited, making the odds of getting a position about 1 in 46.
During the test, candidates spent two hours in the morning answering questions pertaining to mathematics, logic, analysis, comprehension and common knowledge, and another three hours in the afternoon writing essays.
Among positions being offered in 75 central agencies and 23 subsidiary institutions, the fiercest competition is for a job at the post bureau in Ngari prefecture, Tibet autonomous region, the National Civil Service Administration said.
Qian Yuying, a professor at Soochow University's School of Political Science and Public Administration in Jiangsu province, said the promising prospects of civil servants and the strong credibility of the entrance exam contributed to the large number of takers.
"The exam is popular, partly because the exam allows excellent candidates to stand out," Qian told China News Service.
Chen Yu, 26, was one of the test-takers in Beijing on Sunday. He hopes to land a job in a State agency, and the odds of him getting the position he is applying for are 40:1.
A nuclear physics graduate, Chen said being a civil servant is a reasonable career plan and that he felt relieved after finishing the exam.
"I have taken the entrance exam for two consecutive years. The exam is becoming more and more difficult, maybe because of the increasing number of candidates," Chen said. "Given the COVID-19 epidemic, maybe people are considering seeking a more stable job."
Recruitment favors college graduates, with 21,000 vacancies set aside for them in an effort to boost the employment of younger people.
Meanwhile, the central government has also rolled out preferential policies for grassroots positions.
Job qualifications have been loosened for more than 8,700 vacancies at institutions at or below the county level in western China and remote areas.
In addition, preference for more than 2,800 jobs will be given to village officials and volunteers, as well as retired soldiers with more than five years of military service.
Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China, said these policies aim to encourage college graduates to make contributions at the grassroots level and improve the ability of local civil servants.
"This will help keep talent in grassroots areas," Zhu told China News Service.
The exam has been split into three categories: general management positions in central bodies and their provincial subordinates; general management positions in city-level subordinates and below; and administrative law enforcement positions, a new addition.
Zhu said the addition of law enforcement positions as a separate category is meant to improve the legal literacy and law enforcement capability of related personnel.
As required by COVID-19 prevention and control measures, test-takers in many places, including Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu, had to show a negative result for a nucleic acid test taken within 48 hours of the exam.